Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to be shining our gaze onto an up and coming up hip hop artist, A.S.H.E.S The Chosen, and his new mixtape release, ‘The First Call.’ Over the last few years, he’s been described as ‘eccentric and ‘uncompromisingly passionate about his craft’ as he’s risen to be quite a prominent act in the indie scene. Does he stack up to that kind of hype? Let’s explore the first half dozen tracks of ‘The First Call’ and find out.
A.S.H.E.S’ (Shortened to ASHES here on out.) new record opens with ‘The First Call (Welcome 2 the Game,)’ a poignant track that hits the listener in the face right out of the gate with the sound of a lone gunshot in the night. Essentially, ASHES welcomes the listener to the world of, presumably, a black American amidst the increasing racial chaos in the country. He veils references to Trayvon Martin and the like, and does so effectively.
There are a few musings I have right off the bat with this. Firstly, it’s very well written and very well produced. I love the sparse, dynamically interesting beat behind ASHES - it accents him beautifully. Second, I appreciate his passionate delivery. His quick-witted phrasing and howling remind me of Kanye West quite a bit; West performs similarly. (See the recent track ‘All Day’ as a good reference point to that.) Thus, the tune sets a high bar for the subsequent mixtape.
As long as the contrast to West is on the table, it’s worth mentioning that the bombastic, cinematic landscape of ‘Not 2 Blame’ is similar Yeezus, too. (Or perhaps Jay Z.) The song doesn’t open with a gunshot like its predecessor, but it grabs your attention just as well with a Malcolm X excerpt. Infused with an ample dose of soul music, the intense track is a fine excursion through an elegantly produced composition.
‘#SayHerName’ continues ASHES’ mission for social justice with featured guests Sae Monea and Brynn Elyzabeth. The track explores how the Black Lives Matter movement has rallied around black men who have been killed by police brutality, even though there are just as many black women struggling with similar strife against the police. Obviously, the inclusion of female artists was a good thing on the track, and they’re quite excellent.
‘Hear Me Cry’ is probably the best jaunt through poetry in the first half dozen tracks. ASHES is one hell of a wordsmith, and he stretches his wings particularly powerfully on the track. ‘Make It Right’ then jam packs some soulful pop influence into the record, something that dances nicely with ASHES’ powerhouse style.
The first half dozen tracks of ‘The First Call’ are some of the strongest indie hip hop efforts I’ve heard this year. If they’re indicative of the rest of the following tracks, it’s a must-listen. Check it out online now; it’s worth your time if you’re a hip hop fan.
Stream on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/24NvmdM
Stream on Google Play: http://bit.ly/1qfbJvi
Stream on DatPiff: http://bit.ly/21Zvyoh
Twitter & Instagram: @ashesthechosen