New Music: Friday Roll Out! With Joell Ortiz, Shredders, Pom Pom Squad

Today, well, is a heady kind of day with the release of TOOL’s new Fear Inoculum (RCA) which everyone seems to be tripping over. Myself included. That album alone is a heady affair. I mean, c’mon, since the band’s inception, they’ve pushed boundaries and non-conformity has been a huge part of it. But I’m not here to sing the band’s praises because there’s enough to go around for that on the internet and in print today. But I couldn’t just ignore it, and I won’t be this weekend. 3-days this weekend which will allow me to not do the things I need to again, but it’s fine. Soaking in the sun is probably on tap through Labor Day…

There are a handful of artists I’m usually inclined to catch up with, listen to, and give a nod to based on previous works. In this case, Shredders has the pedigree that goes far and beyond the usual suspects. Doomtree is more than just a label, it’s the collective of artists that occasionally find time in their individual schedules to release music as a cohesive unit. When those moments are far and few, members release their own respective music or work with other artists. Shredders began in 2017,- with  Doomtree members Lazerbeak (Lizzo, Longshot), P.O.S., SIMS, and Paper Tiger – releasing the debut Dangerous Jumps. A minimal Doomtree so to speak, but there’s never any lack of beats or lyricism in the Shredders camp, filling in the Doomtree gap until the group comes together for another go-around. While there hasn’t been an album since 2015’s All Hands, the quartet is more than happy to fill in the gap with another release.

Today the band released its new 7-song Great Hits (Doomtree) and the members are allowed much freedom here, culling together tracks that could be a Doomtree redux. While it may not be a fair assessment, the group holds four of the seven members but no one is going to complain about it because a full frontal assault is what we continue to receive from this camp, no matter which form it presents itself in! Starting things with, “Suburban Base,” the haunting vibe of the musical backdrop is accentuated with volleying vocals between SIMS and P.O.S. where self-deprecation begins its theme but morphs into something else completely. That’s followed by “Vanilla ISIS,” a body-moving jam taking vocal jabs in its title regarding the standoff in Oregon by the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom militia, and its internet mockery. It goes further than that though. When SIMS yells “I destroy,” the disembody these causes in one fell swoop.

The band moves in unison like syncopated swimmers on the single, “Ayayayaya” and there may not be another song in existence ever to shadow the singularity of its power and force. “Shadap You Face Pt. II” is an ode to Joe Dolce’s 1981 original but the similarity is only in the title and brief you of it, although I find myself singing the original over the new. The Shredders is much rawer and the lyrics have a stinging bite.

Shredders aren’t trying to change your life with Great Hits, but they are attempting to make it a little better with dope tracks and lyricism allowing one to think a little more. In the end, we’re all the better for it because Shredders has talent for days and to be honest, the music is hot AF. GB

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Hip-Hop aficionados know Joell Ortiz. An emcee, a lyricist, and former member of the now-defunct Slaughterhouse, Ortiz has made a name for himself based on his talent alone. Now with Monday (Mello Music Group), his fifth studio album, Ortiz is pretty much set on showing everyone why his relevancy continues along with his contemporaries. The album itself is drenched with production credits from well-known beatmakers (J.U.S.T.I.C.E League, Big K.R.I.T., Heatmakerz, Nottz) but it’s not simply about beats.

With the opening title track,(prod. by The Lasso), Oritz breezes by this airy joint talking about making sure you grind hard at the beginning of the week. Discussing Joell Ortiz, to his own chagrin, he’s releasing music the same time mumble mouthed rappers receiving consistent airplay, are getting. It’s easy to ignore artistry for something commercially bland. Given, Monday can be full of braggadocio (“Sip Slow”) over head-nodding beats, which isn’t something Ortiz ignores when he says, “…but still below ducking paparazzi/and a flow, well, that keeps me kind of cocky/I’m nice, the feature price, five dice, all these mics screaming ‘Yahtzee’.”

But Joell Ortiz does bang with Heatmeakerz production (“Champion”) on this larger than life joint where self-confidence is strong and his Caribbean-like intonation when he shouts “I’m a champion” may make you want to hit the streets of Brooklyn in search of Jamaican patties with coco bread. Fast forward and we get a little more of Ortiz, becoming autobiographical (“Before Hip Hop”) on a slower dirge with Hesami’s deep beats. Ortiz raps PJs, street corners, and crack rock, and he does with swaggering ease and hypnotic flow. It doesn’t get any better than this! Like many other emcees, he raps poet on the woman that raised him (“Momma”) but there aren’t any cornball antics, just his love for the single-parent he calls “mom.”

Real heads are going to give Monday the proper love it deserves and I’m sure that’s all Ortiz really cares about; his fans that understand what Hip Hop is truly about. Yes, he deserves all the accolades and praise for the new work here he’s released. GB

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So now the Brooklyn-based Pom Pom Squad isn’t a new outfit, and the band has been releasing material since its official 2017 release, Hate It Here EP, although there were a couple of demos circulating in 2015. The project was originally the incarnation of brainchild/frontwoman Mia Berrin but the band also now features bassist Mari Alé Figeman, drummer Shelby Keller, and guitarist Ethan Sass.

Pom Pom Squad has just self-released its second offering in the form of the Ow EP but there’s obviously a problem with it. With just seven songs, as quickly as it begins, it’s already over! It’s not that listeners wouldn’t be able to figure out anything about the band after listening to Ow, but its brevity leaves one clamoring for more. Much more! There are a number of different sides we get from the quartet, beginning with the title-tracked intro, which is filled with guitars plucking away at a few notes repetitively before being accentuated by strings. But it’s Berrin’s hauntingly somber words casting spells all around. She repeats the same words throughout and fortunately, it works. When she sings “…they all say that they want what’s best for me/but they never try to be the best for me,” one can picture Berrin holding her healing heart in hand. There’s beauty in the sparseness of her words, and the music fills every crevice with tactile precision but allowing it to breathe. It’s difficult to get past just one song and repeating it over and over again becomes even more pleasing after every listen. But this is just the band’s top layer, there’s more that lies beneath.  

“Heavy Hitter” is everything its namesake claims it to be, as it crescendos seamlessly which would probably make Buzz Osborne proud, with dual caterwauling guitars and the heaviest of rhythms, all wrapped around a singular melody. The entire song is explosive.  The band seems to welcome repetition, but without being repetitious. “Honeysuckle” draws on the same chords throughout it while remaining entertaining with the shifting dynamics. But it’s the quiet and lingering “Cherry Blossom,” just like the opener, that’s strikingly hypnotic. Again, guitars fill space while vocal harmonies and melodies of Berrin’s voice/words hit harder than the band’s contemporaries may. Again, her heart is exposed but this time around, former lovers are distanced with only anger remaining in the end. The motions of the band progress forward on “Again,” with melodies reminiscent of 70’s contemporary pop, that is if dissonance and noisy guitars were removed, which thankfully they aren’t. It’s Berrin’s delivery, juxtaposed against the noisy backdrop, that makes the song’s flow so effective at times.

It’s so easy to fall in love with the band’s pop sensibilities wrapped around noisy chaos. “Cut My Hair” has Berrin promising to be herself and not what anyone wants her to. The music builds around her melody and harmonies, repeating guitar notes and moving into a cacophonic bliss. Simply gorgeous. Ow’s “Owtro” is a portion of the release’s intro, expelling guitars and vocals, leaving only strings. What in the world…???? At this point, Pom Pom Squad should be HUGE. I don’t see anything limiting the band, nothing should. Pom Pom Squad has made a recording that’s one of the best this year.  GB

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