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Album Review - Themselves: Crownsdown

Oakland hip hop veterans Themselves (Doseone and Jel) can usually be found on the more adventurous side of their genre, twisting, spinning, pushing, and at times ignoring hip hop’s limits while still keeping its roots and principles somewhere nearby. Their new record, Crownsdown, is Themselves’ attempt at creating 10 tracks that each represent an essential hip hop theme, i.e. the diss track, the dj track, the story rap, etc. Not an easy task, especially considering how muddied and forgotten the origins of hip hop have become to the common listener. For a genre that can at times seem to be stuck in its formula, Themselves bring new ideas and energy to hip hop with a respectable and well informed nod to where it came from.

Doseone’s (emcee for Themselves) style has evolved over the years, at times being a slow loose screeching mix of talking and singing and other times a sharp syncopated onslaught of rhythms and rhyme schemes. On Crownsdown Doseone raps with incredible syncopation, his voice and the drums seem locked on every syllable. The few times when he strays away from the beat only make you listen closer, paying attention to his words as he hangs them loosely around the rhythm. His lyrics are challenging and even sometimes hard to understand at first listen. Eventually, with a little effort, the random rapid-fire syllables begin to align and fall into place and a rich and complex world of poetry unfolds as you listen. The best example of this is probably the “dj track” “Skinning the Drum”. Doesone takes a concept that has been around since hip hop’s inception, an emcee given his dj props, and does something completely unique with it. After a chorus of cut up samples via Jel, Doesone begins “You CDJ press play on the mix nah/ I’m drum with no sticks till calloused of hand/ Blowing the glow of these computer can bands and step sequencer Rembrandts/ All me me me, myself, and an Ipod/ Getting jive on the hi hat and volume knob”. The song then ends with what is probably the best 4 lines of the record, “There’s a fine line between who invented it and who was wrenching it/ Who infected it and who protected it/ Who perfected it and who collected it, who came correct with it/ It aint your bag so why drag it.”

The beats for Crownsdown are crafted by Anticon and weird hip hop veteran Jel. His style has also evolved over the years becoming more complex and incorporating a vast amount of new influences and sounds. The beats on Crownsdown are much more electro than the Anticon beats of years ago. Trading in the slow string samples, bass lines, and compressed drums for synthesizers and up-tempo break beats that fit the current musical context well without sounding clichéd. Jel’s beats have layers of complexity and subtle nuances that aren’t found in a lot of modern hip hop production while still having an incredible ear for drum breaks and grooves. Although not the highlight of Crownsdown, Jel’s beats are solid and perfect for Doseone’s delivery and style.

Crownsdown is not, and probably wasn’t intended to be, a genre changing record. Hip hop is still stuck in its current state for who knows how long and no amount of genuinely creative and unique records is going to change that anytime soon. Underground and/or alternative artists will just have to keep challenging themselves and their listeners and be happy with what success comes from that. Themselves are a shining example of this type of artist and hopefully will continue to pull hip hop apart and put it back together for the love of it.

-Glenn Jackson


Go shopping with Girls and DJ Qbert

This week I've developed a new obsession with the video interview series "Whats In My Bag?" on Amoeba's site. Its always facinating to get a glimpse into what has influenced musicians and the songs they create. Want to hear the members of Girls talk about some of their favorite albums? Or how about listening to turntablist DJ Qbert explain his method for selecting albums to sample? Did you know that British band The Horrors totally dig Wooden Shjips? Me neither! This is probably the closest thing to going CD shopping with them in person.



Five Questions with: Your Cannons

Your Cannons are the latest Bay Area band to be chosen by our readers as The Deli SF Artist of The Month. Their latest release The Dust Bowl EP is availible now and you can check them out January 19th at Bottom of the Hill.

What food item best describes your music?
Black licorice dogs, we have an endless supply in our studio, they inspire us.

What instrument have you wanted to include but have yet to find a way to fit into your sound?
I recently bought a Melodica because I thought I heard Brian Wilson play one on Cabin Essence on Smile. It will probably be on every song on the next EP

Embarrassing childhood memory?
Bon Jovi

What musical artist would you like to grab a beer with?
Not Thom Yorke, he once lent me 20 pence to buy a pint at a Strokes gig in Oxford, when I gave him his change he slowly counted it. Probably Nick McCabe.

And finally, time travel or space travel?
Definitely time travel. There's so many amazing things that I've missed, the England World Cup win in '66, Keith Moon drumming, being at the Joiners Arms in Southampton when The Verve played the 'best gig ever,' dinosaurs etc. Getting anywhere of interest in this universe involves a lot of waiting, stasis, and sleep, and that's just not that exciting...

If your band has answers to The Deli SF's Five Questions, forward them on to sfeditor@thedelimagazine.com



B and Not B: The Notes Within

B and Not B have branched out from driving around the city in a U-Haul van playing impromptu covers of Led Zeppelin and are now driving around the Pacific Northwest performing original material from their yet to be released debut album. The Notes Within is the first in a series of videos that give a backstage look at the glamorous life that is being a Bay Area indie band shacking up in a single hotel room on the road. You can download the song for free at their site.



The Deli's Year End Best of 2009 Poll - Sponsors and Prizes

Musical peoples,

The Deli's Year End Polls are upon us! This year the pool of prizes is absolutely astounding: we would like to thank the companies that allowed us to run this poll and that are providing prizes for the bands that will win them.


BMI Shure


iZotope Sampletron

Amplitube Fender
Sampletron T-Racks
providing a total of 27 audio plug in for the pool of prizes (9 iZotope, 9 IK Multimedia)

Music Insurance
Music Pro Insurance
providing 2 insurance policies for the pool of prizes

Music Stores
Dale Pro Audio Dale Pro Audio
providing a total of 7 $50 vouchers for the pool of prizes

Vault Mastering The Lodge Mastering Knack Mastering
providing a total of 26 free mastered songs for the pool of prizes

Recording Studios
Grand Street Recording The Fort

Catfish Studio hideout studios Studio SQ
providing a total of 50+ hours of free recording for the pool of prizes

Screen Printing
Custom Band Tees
providing free custom T-Shirts for the pool of prizes

If your company is interested in sponsoring "The Deli Year End Best of Poll" it's not too late! Just contact us here.

The Deli Staff


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