This time two years ago Mac Miller was on top of the world. With a MTV reality TV show funding his music making addiction, among other ones, the future was bright and prosperous. Unsurprisingly, most fans were more interested in what turns he would take musically. The more commercial route was clearly laid out for him in the beginning but he cast that aside, as well as his TV show, in favour of producing quality music in the manner he chooses. With GO:OD AM he has released his best and certainly his most consistent work so far.
The lighter and more upbeat tone to the album suggests that Mac is in a happier place mentally and physically than he was two years ago. Good AM is a far cry from his last work, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, which featured a drug addled Mac exploring topics like humanity & mortality. As interesting and introspective as that record was, this one gives the impression that he is more comfortable in his own skin.
His issues with drugs are addressed directly on Perfect Circle/God Speed. It is a candid and brutally honest look at a once troubled artist, who thankfully has shaken this slump and come out better because of it. The whole album can be summed up with the theme of the song and that is redemption. Mac does his best to inspire the same vitality in the listener that he has recently discovered, a refreshing trait to see in someone with such wide reach and appeal.
GO:OD am is the sound of an artist who has evolved and grown. Whether it’s in terms of lyrics, delivery or general confidence, Mac has come a long way. He is a true hip hop artist, but with pop sensibilities that allow him to carry melodies and deliver better hooks than many of his tone deaf peers who use voice altering software like it’s going out of fashion. The consistency maintained over the course of 17 tracks makes this Mac’s most cohesive project yet. Maybe a clear and sober head might actually be good for songwriting, despite what history has showed us several times in the past.
It’s rare that you get two groups as hungry as Boss Level Series and This Side Up performing support sets at the one gig. B.L.S easily fill up the stage with their multiple man crew and unleash a ferocious barrage of tracks from the various artists on stage. They set a relentless pace for the next act, one that was easily matched by a two man crew from Sligo, This Side Up. Both acts showed two different sides of Irish hip hop, both as entertaining and skilfully executed as the other.
The energy exerted by the support acts is perhaps slightly deflated with Oddisee’s casual walk onto stage. It’s important to take his aesthetic into consideration though. He seems more obsessed with his craft rather than achieving some unobtainable level of fame. He has made a name for himself with deep and emotional lyrics and a fondness for low key live performances, as highlighted during his excellent NPR Tiny Desk Concert earlier this year.
The addition of his band, Good Company, is really what makes the show. Too often hip hop gigs are let down by a lack of a rapport between the band and the main act, but this was far from the case. Good Company elevate the show to new heights, ones that may be unachievable with the traditional rapper and DJ set up. ‘What’s Going On’ sounds as blissfully serene as always, with the light backing vocals add layers to Oddisee’s insightful verses.
The material from his latest release, the Good Fight, gets an extended run through. The obligatory singalong of ‘That’s Love’ proves to be the highlight of the evening, with the soulful ‘Contradiction’s Maze’ coming in close second. An encore featuring a little snippet of Simon Says by Pharaohe Monch is a sure fire way to end a somewhat laid back set with a massive bang. It’s also a great way to inject some more life into a truly personal and laid back performance.
Oddisee knows how to relate with fans through his music so it’s no wonder that he is such a master at doing so on stage also. He might not get the recognition he necessarily deserves at this point, but he leaves no doubt in the mind of the Sugar Club’s audience that he needs to be at least considered in your list of top 10 rappers. Whether you really agree with that statement or not, Oddisee will continue to honourably fight the Good Fight for true lyricism and real music anyway, and he must be commended for that.
Action Bronson is a quite unlike any other rapper. After breaking his leg in a kitchen accident, he decided to leave the culinary world behind and put his rhyming skills to work just 5 years ago. It is fair to say he has come a long way in such a short space of time. Having released his major label debut, the eclectic ‘Mr. Wonderful’ in March and becoming a food critic in with his own show, ‘Fuck, That’s Delicious’ via Vice, it was no surprise to see the Academy sold out and full to the brim of eager fans looking to catch a glimpse of one of the most entertaining hip hop artists of the moment.
Opening sets from his fellow Queens native, Meyhem Lauren, and longtime producer and collaborator, the Alchemist suitably get the ball rolling and the crowd amply excited for what’s to come. As soon as Bronson strides on stage, it’s clear from the look on his face and the reception he gets from the crowd, that this was the role he was born to play. He is a showman, completely in his element with a command and presence that live up to the stature of his character.
It is during the tracks from his debut album that he seems most energised. Whether it’s the during rugged playfulness of ‘Falconry’, or the smoother singalong of ‘Baby Blue’ Action bellows out his ridiculous imagery by the bucketload. His voice is incomparable in terms of power and volume. He affirms the fact that voice altering and vocal backing tracks are not a necessity in a hip hop live show, despite what other artists might have you think.
The short running time of the set allows for more tracks but less interaction, which is surprising trait for someone who is known for being so charismatic. It would have been entertaining to hear him crack a few more jokes, but an extended run of Amadu Diablo into Give Me One Reason by Tracy Chapman makes up for the lack of laughs with simply great music. While it was never in doubt, Bronson makes a point to affirm his self appointed Mr Wonderful title with storming performances such as this one.