Classic Album Review

Classic Album Review: Return to the 36 Chambers: the Dirty Version by Ol’ Dirty Bastard

ALBUM: “Return to 36 Chambers: the Dirty Version” by Ol’ Dirty Bastard


LABEL: Elecktra Records

BEST TRACKS: “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” “Brooklyn Zoo,” “Raw Hide,” “Don’t U Know”

FCC: Every track

For the uninitiated, Ol’ Dirty Bastard was one of the founding members of the legendary group Wu-Tang Clan, and indisputably the most eccentric. RZA was the mastermind behind the group’s mythos (and not to mention their beats), GZA was philosopher, and Raekwon was the chef, but ODB was definitely the wild card. His erratic life in the public eye – from dozens of run-ins with the law, to riding in a limo to cash a welfare check, to escaping rehab – served only to feed into his image as hip-hop’s drunken uncle.

But I am not here to discuss his fame – or infamy – depending on who you ask. Let’s talk about his presence on the mic.

Fortunately, ODB’s vocal performances were just crazy enough to stand up to his life outside of the booth. Nowhere is this more apparent than on his debut solo album, Return to the 36 Chambers: the Dirty Version, released in 1995. From the very first track – which is one of the best intro skits on any hip-hop album – Ol’ Dirty Bastard is characterized as a larger-than-life figure that spends just as much time on wax rambling half-coherently as he does rapping. If he isn’t doing either of those things, he’s singing with a one-of-a-kind delivery that mixes feverish yelping with warbled vibrato. This complements his uncanny ability to switch his emotional tone instantly, which ranges from drunken sorrow to unhinged lunacy. The only thing that can balance out ODB’s volatility is the RZA’s calculated production. Throughout the album, he combines samples from soul, funk, and English-dubbed kung-fu films to create a variety of grimy beats.

On Return to the 36 Chambers: the Dirty Version, Ol’ Dirty Bastard makes it clear that he has no interest in sounding like other artists. With his unmistakable voice and idiosyncratic personality, he was truly in a lane of his own, or as Method Man put it: there ain’t no father to his style. This album is a must listen for any hip-hop fan, and an experience in and of itself.

– DJ Mango


Komo no Chomei: Cottagecore King

Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, systemic police brutality and other unprecedented events, never has it been more enticing than in 2020 to abandon civilization and live in a cute hut in the woods, befriending forest creatures and making homemade soap. Yes, it would seem the “cottagecore” ideal is alive and well, but what if I told you its aesthetics are nothing new?

Enter Japanese recluse literature. Like cottagecore, this genre embraces living in harmony with nature, separate from society, but unlike cottagecore, it has no interest in romanticizing neocolonialism. Buddhist disciple Komo no Chomei was rejecting modernity in a time that would now be considered antiquity – around the turn of the thirteenth century to be exact – making him something of a hipster in the cottagecore scene.

Chomei’s masterwork, An Account of my Hermitage, establishes its themes from the get-go:

Though the river’s current never fails, the water passing, moment by moment, is never the same.  Where the current pools, bubbles form on the surface, bursting and disappearing as others rise to replace them, none lasting long. In this world, people and their dwelling places are like that, always changing.

By equating us to the flow of water, Chomei brings into question the ephemeral nature of life. This comparison sets the tone for the rest of the piece, as he recalls several natural disasters – fire, windstorms, floods, earthquakes and famine – that spelled catastrophe for thousands of people. He also recalls human conflicts, such as the war between the Minamoto and Taira clans, but to him these are inconsequential when in the face of mother nature. To this end, Chomei paints a rather bleak picture of the human condition, and raises the question: “Where can we live, what can we do, to find even the briefest of shelters, the most fleeting peace of mind?” This is a question that I think is especially relevant today.

The remainder of the memoir is tasked with answering that question. Chomei’s solution was simple: since the source of man’s despair is his attachment to worldly desires, he would abandon them. In practice, this meant leaving the home he inherited from his grandmother and building a ten-foot square hut in the mountains where he would spend the rest of his days. With no connections to other humans and no attachment to material possessions except his hut, Chomei devoted the rest of his life to following the Way of the Buddha.

Buddhist monks were living with no attachment to the outside world long before the Western construction of cottagecore. By possessing little they suffered little; by rejecting desire they embraced enlightenment. You don’t have to be a Rinzai Zen master to see that sometimes, it’s the little things that matter the most.

Read Komo no Chomei’s memoir here.

– DJ Mango


Saturday Favorites 11/7/20

Happy Saturday everyone! Here are the songs that I’ve had on repeat lately:

  1. Grip 3:16 (feat. Kenny Mason & J.I.D) by Grip: Grip links up with fellow Atlanta natives Kenny Mason and J.I.D and together they spit over a Crosby & Nash sample.
  2. Shimmy Shimmy Ya by Ol’ Dirty Bastard: The lead single off of ODB’s solo debut managed to become a hit despite it consisting of only a hook and the same verse repeated twice. But with his idiosyncratic style and quotable lyrics, it’s easy to see why.
  3. Dora by Tierra Whack: Miss Whack’s new track finds her sleeping in Gucci sheets, enjoying floor seats at basketball games, and even contemplating buying a horse. Check out the music video here.
  4. HËÂT RŌČK. by Tobe Nwigwe: This track features an impressive verse from Tobe Nwigwe that starts before the beat drops: “I ain’t gone wait till the beat drops/I’mma get it while it’s warm and start to form this heat rock.”
  5. Look Over Your Shoulder (feat. Kendrick Lamar) by Busta Rhymes: This track was officially released on Busta’s new album, Extinction Level Event 2: Wrath of God. However, various versions leaked online as early as 2017. Either way, Kendrick and Busta both deliver over a beat that heavily samples “I’ll Be There” by The Jackson 5.
  6. You’ll Never Walk Alone by Brittany Howard: Originally coming up as the lead singer of Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard has embarked on an exciting solo career, a move that has allowed her to explore other sounds in a more intimate setting.
  7. Something in the Water (feat. Denzel Curry) by Saba: On this track, Saba and Denzel Curry take aim at the exploitative nature of the music industry and profiteers of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  8. Dragonball Durag Remix (feat. Smino & Guapdad 4000) by Thundercat: On this remix, Thundercat enlists Smino and Guapdad to rap about various hair care products.

– DJ Mango

New Album Review

Album Review: Apolonio by Omar Apollo

ALBUM: “Apolonio” by Omar Apollo


LABEL: Warner Records

BEST TRACKS: “Want U Around (feat. Ruel)”, “Dos Uno Nueve (219)”, “Useless”

FCC: “I’m Amazing”, “Kamikaze”, “Hey Boy (feat. Kali Uchis)”, “Dos Uno Nueve”, “Bi Fren”

In 2017, Omar Apollo appeared out of thin air with “Ugotme”, a bedroom pop ballad in 6/8 time which, to this day, remains his most popular song. At the time, he was living in his recording studio – a friend’s attic – and juggling two jobs at Guitar Center and Jimmy John’s. In the following years, he released two EPs, Stereo and Friends, and built a sizable fanbase itching for his debut album.

Three years after his introduction, the singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist finds himself in a different context: having left the 219 in Indiana, he now finds himself in Los Angeles. Apolonio, bearing his family name, is the clearest picture of Omar Apollo to date. Using hopeless romanticism as a point of departure, he switches effortlessly between funk, soul, R&B, and Latinx disciplines, which are all facets of his identity. “Want U Around”, with its patient bass and soaring vocal harmonies, has Prince written all over it. Meanwhile, the brand of funk present on “Stayback” is reminiscent of Bootsie Collins – who even appears on the remix. “Useless”, which sounds like Steve Lacy meets The Strokes, features some of Omar Apollo’s most candid observations: “You said I was your soulmate, but that was just a lie/It’s alright, we’re way too young to be giving out advice.” In the past, he has flirted with singing in Spanish, but not to the extent found on “Dos Uno Nueve”. The risk pays off in spades, however, because the track is definitely a highlight.

At the age of 23, Omar Apollo still has his whole career ahead of him. If Apolonio is any indication of what’s to come, he has quite the future in store for him, indeed.

– DJ Mango


Horrorcore: A Chronology

With a global pandemic redefining life as we know it, an election that could determine the fate of our fragile democracy (click here for DJ Butter’s last minute NC voting resources), and Halloween just around the corner, it is safe to say that spooky season is in full effect. Given the circumstances, I thought it apt to take a brief look at hip-hop’s spookiest subgenre: horrorcore.

The ethos of horrorcore reflects that of the horror film, but it is presented in the context of hip-hop. As a result, rappers touch on macabre themes of death and the occult, and the depictions of violence and drugs normally found in hip-hop are turned up to extreme, sometimes campy, levels of exaggeration. Ironically, this is the least horrific kind of horrorcore – instead, some artists abandon the theatrics in favor of dark depictions of isolation, mental illness and drug abuse that make for a truly unsettling experience. It’s important to note that horrorcore does not exist in a vacuum, and shares similarities to other subgenres of music like emo rap, nu-metal, and hardcore hip-hop.

Music video for “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” by Geto Boyz, a group that laid the groundwork for many horrorcore artists to come

Though the origin of the sound can be traced back to the 80s, it didn’t gain popularity until the 90s. Released in 1991, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” by Geto Boyz, with its lyrical themes of paranoia, can be considered foundational for the subgenre. Meanwhile, The Flatlinerz embraced satanic imagery on their 1994 album U.S.A (Under Satan’s Authority), and Gravediggaz burst onto the scene with their debut album 6 Feet Deep. Legendary groups Three 6 Mafia and Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony both broke through in 1995, with Mystic Stylez and E. 1999 Eternal respectively, bringing horrorcore’s aesthetics to an even wider audience. During this time, the Insane Clown Posse was amassing a cult following of Juggalos with their over-the-top depictions of violence, reflected in their 1997 song “Hokus Pokus”.

The iconic music video for Tyler, The Creator’s “Yonkers”

Like the rest of hip-hop, horrorcore has changed dramatically throughout the years. In the early 2010s, the edgy subject matter and dark production of Tyler, The Creator’s early work earned him the horrorcore designation – a label he readily rejected. With a new generation of rappers inspired by the heyday of horrorcore came a new sound: boom bap drum loops were traded in for woozy, brooding instrumentals inspired by cloud rap. In 2015, this shift was evident in the music of Lil Ugly Mane, whose album Oblivion Access brought the subgenre to new nihilistic heights, and Ghostemane, who adopted the triplet flow pioneered by Three 6 Mafia and Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony.

Music video for “Die Very Rough” by Mario Judah

Around the same time, another side of horrorcore was conceived in its intersection with rock music, specifically metal. Artists like XXXTentacion (though his sound would later veer into emo territory) and City Morgue pioneered this hyper distorted and aggressive style of hip-hop. Earlier in 2020, Mario Judah burst onto the scene with his own unique interpretation of the genre, complete with a melodramatic singing voice and trap production. Presently, the group clipping. offers one of the most exciting takes on horrorcore, with experimental production that includes field recordings and lyrical content that subverts common horror tropes.

There you have it: an autopsy of horrorcore – one hip-hop’s most idiosyncratic, dynamic, and controversial subgenres – and with it a Halloween soundtrack curated by yours truly. Happy haunting!

– DJ Mango


Friday Favorites

Hello everyone! As Libra season comes to a close, I present to you the songs I’ve been rocking with for the past week:

  1. Die Very Rough by Mario Judah: Mario Judah’s theatrical, apocalyptic vocal delivery is something you’d expect from a Disney villain. It may be something of a meme, but it’s undeniably catchy.
  2. Yallwhadinthere by MFnMelo: Pivot Gang’s own MFnMelo showcases an ear-grabbing flow with “Yallwhadinthere”, found on his 2019 project Everybody Eats. Check it out!
  3. We Go a Long Way Back by Bloodstone: Originally released in 1982, this track definitely goes a long way back; however, the classy instrumentation and vocal performances make it just as fresh as it was the day it came out.
  4. Stormy Weather by The Magnolia: With its horn sections, guitar stabs, and pained vocal performance, “Stormy Weather” by The Magnolia is a true blues affair, and makes even the sunniest of days feel dismal in the best way possible.
  5. Bi Fren by Omar Apollo: Fresh off his debut project, Apolonio, Omar Apollo reflects on being the “bi friend” in a one-sided relationship. Review coming soon!
  6. Find Yourself by Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real: At the intersection of blues, soul, and country is “Find Yourself” by Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. No matter the genre, this song is a genuine display of emotion.
  7. Pac-Man (feat. ScHoolboy Q) by Gorillaz: Through dozens of creative ventures like Blur and Gorillaz, Damon Albarn’s career has spanned more than 30 years. Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez is his latest endeavor, and its laundry list of collaborators, ranging from Elton John to ScHoolboy Q, illustrate his eclectic approach to songwriting.
  8. State Prisoner by Black Thought: Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cain & Able is the latest from Roots frontman and lyrical heavyweight Black Thought. “State Prisoner” finds him in top form as he spits over a Sean C instrumental.

– DJ Mango


October 2020 Sample Platter

Back by popular demand, here is my sample platter for October 2020: a delicious spread of samples used in hip-hop and beyond!

  1. Amen Brother by The Winstons: The “Amen” break is one of the most heavily sampled drum breaks in the history of sampling, and not just in hip-hop. It appears frequently in drum and bass mixes as well.
  2. Footsteps in the Dark, Pts. 1 & 2 by The Isley Brothers: With a career spanning more than five decades, the Isley Brothers are no strangers to sampling. “Footsteps in the Dark” is perhaps their most popular sample, with Ice Cube flipping it on “It Was a Good Day” and Thundercat with “Them Changes”.
  3. Bound by The Ponderosa Twins Plus One: Kanye has a knack for finding loops, making minimal changes to them, and still making a great beat. This is exactly what he did with “Bound 2”, which samples “Bound”.
  4. Prison Song by Carlton Williams: A sample of this song reached the masses thanks to Metro Boomin, who flipped it for Future’s 2017 Mask Off.
  5. Mystic Brew by Ronnie Foster: This song was first sampled by A Tribe Called Quest on their track “Electric Relaxation”. In 2013, J. Cole sampled it in “Forbidden Fruit”, and then he reversed that track to create the beat for “Neighbors”.
  6. Outstanding by The Gap Band: An interpolation of this classic appeared on Tyler, the Creator’s 2017 album Flower Boy via the song “911”.
  7. Use Me by Bill Withers: Like the Amen break, the drum break on this song has been sampled dozens of times, by the likes of Kendrick, Logic, Nas, and Drake.
  8. As Long As I’ve Got You by The Charmels: The opening piano riff of this song is instantly recognizable if you’ve heard “C.R.E.A.M” by The Wu-Tang Clan, which loops it on repeat.

– DJ Mango

Band/Artist Profile

Slept On: Mario Judah

21 year-old artist Mario Judah exists in the musical Twilight Zone: a place where Breaking Benjamin meets A Boogie, Pantera meets Playboi Carti, and Ozzy Osbourne meets Offset. While this may seem like an odd juxtaposition at first, the fusion of rap and rock is nothing new – just look at artists like Three 6 Mafia, Limp Bizkit, and Cypress Hill. However, Mario Judah has breathed new life into the tradition with his unique delivery and trap instrumentation.

Music video for “Die Very Rough” by Mario Judah

Judah saw success in September of this year with the single “Die Very Rough”, which combines melody and melodrama through a vocal delivery that has been compared to that of a Disney villain. With the addition of a horror film themed music video, the song was slated to become a meme – which is exactly what happened when it exploded on TikTok. Despite the novelty of “Die Very Rough”, Judah has undeniable singing chops and has been producing beats since his teenage years. Released in June, “Crush” forecasted the success of “Die Very Rough” and proved his sound is more than a gimmick – it’s his brand.

Music video for “Crush” by Mario Judah

In the age of viral fame, getting our attention is easy – the hard part is maintaining it. Will Mario Judah enter the hallowed halls of horrorcore as an artist that blurs the line between rap and rock? Or will he fade into meme rap obscurity and join the ranks of 6ix9ine and Ugly God? Now that he has the spotlight, only time will tell what he does with it.

– DJ Mango


Film Review: The Lobster (2015)

The Lobster is a film featuring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, and John C. Reilly. It is a film that is hard to explain, and even harder pigeonhole into one genre: it contains elements of drama, thriller, and romance, but the genre it most closely resembles is dark comedy.

The film takes place in a near-future dystopian setting in which everyone is required to be in a committed relationship. Singles are sent to a hotel where they have 45 days to find a mate, or they will be transformed into the animal of their choice. The film centers around David, a man who is all alone after a failed marriage, as he tries to navigate awkward courting rituals at the hotel before he is turned into a lobster.

The Lobster is full of twists, turns, and convoluted plot points that some viewers may not like. There are also elements of the absurd in the film that I think are intentionally confusing, such as non-sequiturs, nonsensical dialogue, and long shots that seem to overstay their welcome. There are only 3 characters with names in the film; the rest are identified by their traits or roles. The ending of the film raises many more questions than it answers, which is simultaneously tasteful and frustrating. Depending on your perspective, the film has a lot to say or absolutely nothing at all.

In spite of its downfalls, The Lobster is one of the most entertaining films I have seen this year—I don’t usually watch films more than once, and I have seen this one three times. There were plenty of scenes that made me laugh, some that made me uneasy, and some that were genuinely touching. The ambiguity of the film leaves plenty of room for thematic analysis. Perhaps the film is criticizing our society’s obsession with monogamous relationships and our willingness to sacrifice individuality to conform to be better partners, or perhaps it means nothing at all – either way, it’s worth watching.

Have you seen The Lobster? If so, what did you think?

– DJ Mango

Band/Artist Profile

Slept On: RMR

Not much is known about the figure known as RMR – pronounced “rumor” – who never makes a public appearance without his embroidered ski mask. One thing is certain, however: the man can sing. His breakout single “Rascal”, with its impassioned vocal performance and “F— 12” refrain, combines hardcore hip-hop aesthetics with country balladry thanks to its interpolation of “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts. Like Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road”, the juxtaposition of these two styles makes “Rascal” – along with its music video – primed for viral success.
Music Video for “Rascal” by RMR

Given his enigmatic persona and viral appeal, it would be easy to write off RMR as a gimmick. When I play “Rascal” for my friends, none of them take it seriously – but while there is a certain novelty in auto-crooning about drug dealing over a country instrumental, it’s clear the rapper has his sights set higher than one-hit wonder status. In June of 2020, he followed up the success of his viral hit with Drug Dealing is a Lost Art, an EP that saw features from Westside Gunn, Future, Lil Baby, and Young Thug. Tracks like “Welfare” and “Dealer” showcase RMR’s ability to glide over melodic trap instrumentals and prove that “Rascal” was no fluke.

So who is the man behind the mask? According to RMR, that isn’t important – the music is all that matters. As he told Entertainment Weekly: “At the end of the day, every artist is wearing a mask. Even a lot of individuals in their normal day are wearing a mask. I’m just a mirror for them.”

– DJ Mango