music feature

Onra - L.O.V.E

Onra - L.O.V.E
Originally published at passionweiss
By Jimmy Ness
Onra’s latest strand of funk makes you feel like a baby-faced Prince still elegantly rocking crotch-hugging leather pants and frilly silk shirts. “L.O.V.E” has an obvious post-disco 80s influence with cloudy funk vocals, nostalgic synth-work, and beep-bop you’d imagine little green men grooving to. It’s the perfect soundtrack to hot weather, pool parties and driving a ragged convertible around Florida. Yes, I just described Miami Vice.
The first leak from Onra’s forthcoming Fools Gold debut displays his evolution beyond the vintage boogie-funk of 2010 album Long Distance with half-spoken vocal samples and summer vibes. But the Vietnamese-Parisian producer doesn’t just make music for dance floor disciples. His Eastern inspired beat tapes Chinoiseries I & II contained unique Chinese vocal samples from the 50s and banged harder than a ninja assassin smoke grenade. The 30 year old has also drawn more than a few J Dilla comparisons by writers desperate to categorize his protean production.

If you’re a crappy Youtube artist thinking of adding vocals to “L.O.V.E” or any of Onra’s beats, please don’t. I’m wearing a tight pink suit and growing a puffy blonde mullet. I don’t want anyone to kill my excited preparation for Onra’s new opus.

In defense of: Chip Tha Ripper

By Jimmy Ness

Originally published at

Cleveland’s coldest is too often dismissed as Kid Cudi’s lesser sidekick. Undoubtedly Chip’s affiliation with melodramatic Mescudi has grown his fan base, often at the expense of his credibility. But he’s also a talented and likable rapper worthy of individual praise.

Charles Worth claimed to decline appearing on this year’s underwhelming XXL Freshman cover, and who could blame him? The 25 year old was part of the underground circuit before Cudi became a hipster hit and comparing him to the likes of
this, proves he’s disrespected.

On Chip’s first mixtapes he rapped with an unremarkable Southern style, which sounded sleepier than a sedated Z-Ro. His albums suffered from the traditional pitfalls: bloated posse cuts, weak hooks, unoriginality etc. But like most early projects, talent was hidden amongst cliché talk of guns and girls. Charles soon took an evolutionary leap after his fourth project You Can’t Stop Me and left his Chopped and Screwed days behind for a more light-hearted style.

Nerdy humorists from the popular forum helped turn Chip into a minor internet celebrity after his 2007 S.L.A.B freestyle. His absurd “Interior Crocodile Alligator, I drive a mobile Chevrolet theatre.” line spread everywhere and has millions of Youtube views. From videos of National Geographic crocodile documentaries to typical internet fuckery, it proved he knew how to write catchy and sometimes humorous lyrics.

Chip showcased his impressive flow and unique style on 2009’s The Cleveland Show, but his real magnum opus was released two years later. Gift Raps has thirteen solid tracks without a single false move. The coldest sounds better than anyone over Chuck Inglish’s inspired beats and has enough charisma to carry the project without guest features. From smooth double-time rhyming on intro “The Entrance” to boom-bap raps on the triumphant “Light One Up”, it’s still one of the most cohesive and replayable albums in recent memory.

The ménage a trios fantasy portrayed in “Plural” is one of Chip’s best tracks period. Charles tells an uncomplicated tale about hanging out with two females before a drug-induced party. Instead of focusing on lyrical dexterity, he keeps the rhymes simple which strengthens the imagery.

“More girls arrive to my surprise. They had a bag of shrooms and kush and didn’t bring no guys. Here we go, get ready, good thoughts and fly colours.”

And finally we have a hypnotic chorus, which threatens to stay in the listener’s brain forever.

“Two going at once, I like my girls like I like my blunts (wherever, whenever). And that’s two going at once.”

Yes, Chip is not covering deep subject matter or rhyming the elements on the periodic table. But rappers often forget that music is meant to be enjoyable. Charles doesn’t over-extend himself and covers well-tread topics with a new perspective or vocabulary. He switches from comparing Cleveland and Jumanji to warning listeners not to eat high fructose corn syrup, all with the same light-hearted tone. His feel good raps have more in common with the Run DMC’s of the 1980s, than today’s jaded generation.

Teenage skateboarders and trap-stars reuse each others lines while Chip spits under-utilized slang. Who else still says fresh or talks about handing out money instead of making it rain? 

“Forever I’ll be F R E $ H, chillin’ up in I-Hop with that country fried steak, super smooth Kenny G and these raps be the sack, shined up in the wax, bet them panties gon’ collapse.”

This year’s project Tell Ya Friends had a little too much filler and not enough Cbuck Inglish, but there’s still some of The Ripper’s magic on tracks like the audio smoker’s session “Soothing” or Lex Luger produced “Out Here”. The latter sounds surprisingly unlike “Blowing Money Fast” version ten and you can hear the beat maker was also inspired by the glorious Gift Raps production.

If Chip‘s strong points aren‘t enough to convince you, feel free to stick with Slaughterhouse reciting dictionaries. Sometimes less is more.

The Crystal Method interview

Disclaimer: I was a kid when I wrote this so please withhold any judgements on quality :)

Dance duo The Crystal Method rode the commercial boom of electronica in the 90s and haven't let up since. Their music has appeared in more than 30 films and currently serves as the soundtrack to TV crime series Bones. Groove Guide magazine tries to discover the secret to making a decade of toe tapping beats.

By Jimmy Ness

Glow sticks and sweaty pill-poppers are the first things that come to mind when you imagine dance parties. But Ken Jordan, one half of iconic duo The Crystal Method, says there was more to the electronic scene in the 1990s.

"Early on it was kind of renegade. It was still a lot of raves. They were not that well organised, they were not at normal venues. You wouldn't even be sure the event was going to happen."

"For us, we were interested in the whole thing. Yeah there were drugs on the scene, but we were more interested in the music, the lights and the big stages. You have to make music that sounds good to sober people too."

Ken sounds remarkably grounded considering how far The Crystal Method has come. Before co-creating one of America's most popular electronic groups, he met music partner Scott Kirkland while they were working at a supermarket in Las Vegas.

The pair made their own studio dubbed "The Bomb Shelter" in a house they owned together.

"We built it inside of a garage. We didn't know how to build anything so we weren't very good at construction, but somehow those walls and the ceiling stayed up for like 13 years," Ken laughs.

"It was a real amateur job and it kind of looked a mess, but it sounded pretty good and it was soundproof. Early on we had no air conditioning. It was pretty rough in there, it was tough to invite people to come over to work."

Their first album Vegas came out four years after they started The Crystal Method in 1993. It was a breakout success reaching platinum status in the states with many songs used in film, advertising and game soundtracks.

Unlike dance acts who are good for a ringtone download and forgotten a minute later, they proved themselves to be a group worth knowing about.

The Crystal Method were invited to provide music for Hugh Jackman's latest film Real Steel and recently worked on a Nike soundtrack designed specifically for exercise. The group is also famed for their collaborations and have worked with Tom Morello, Scott Weiland and Pete Hook of New Order.

But what lead them to DJing? Ken says, in his casual way, that electronic music was "sort of like a natural progression."

"We liked Depeche Mode and stuff like that. It was just something you could do with samples, synthesisers and drum machines. So it just kind of lead down that road and then we went to some raves, and we were like wow this is great music."

The duo further ensured their longevity with a broad sound which included experimentation with rock and heavy metal influences.

Ken says that's not likely to change either.

"Rock is what we grew up listening to before we started making music. That's what Scott's dad played for him and my older brother for me. We love it then, we've always loved it and I think that will always be a part of our sound."

Sounds fair enough to me.