Thursday, June 28, 2018

Here's what they think about you

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Fred Hampton speaking at a Chicago Black Panther Rally

   Before you attempt to discredit victims of social injustice, question methods of protest, and quickly insert a narrative of "get over it", please consider this.

   Since 1975 there has been a government building in Washington D.C. with the name J. Edgar Hoover on it. This is the racist scumbag who drafted the illegal surveillance program through the FBI named COINTELPRO. I will let the words of J. Edgar Hoover himself explain what the program was about:

   "The purpose of this new counterintelligence endeavor is to expose, disrupt, misdirect, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist, hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters."

   This program ran from 1956-1971 and was directly related to the assassinations of prominent African American leaders in socio-economic reform, anti-war protests, educational equality, self-defense groups, religious leaders, just to name a few. COINTELPRO also led to the imprisonment of so many members of those aforementioned groups in an effort to:

   "Prevent the rise of a 'messiah' who could unify and electrify the militant black nationalist movement." - J. Edgar Hoover

   What does the government of the United States of America do? Let's name the Federal Bureau of Investigation building after him! And you still want to question why people are protesting? Let that sink in for a minute and let me answer that question with a question.

   How would you feel if the person responsible for the framework of a program that murdered a member of your family, a prominent member of your church, a teacher in your school, the father of your children, had a federal building named after him?

   Fast forward to today in an effort to see the racial divide continues in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as the city is fighting for justice. On Tuesday, June 19, Antwon Rose II was the victim of a shooting death while fleeing a traffic stop. East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld fired three shots that hit Rose in the face, elbow, and back.

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Antwon Rose II

   In an official statement issued by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. in regards to the shot in the back, "That's the fatal shot."

   Officer Michael Rosfeld, 30, has been charged with criminal homicide and posted an unsecured bond of $250,000 being released on his own recognizance.

   The game is underway. This becomes a very delicate situation as precedent has been set unfortunately in these situations. A neighbor had recorded a very clear video of the shooting that at this time has over 150,000 views on Facebook. There have been notable cases in the past with clear video evidence of police misconduct that led to not guilty verdicts.

   In 1992 LAPD officers Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy
Wind and Theodore Briseno were acquited of use of excessive force charges in the brutal beating of Rodney King. Video evidence recorded by a neighbor at the time of the traffic stop was available and used in court. On November 22, 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed at a Cleveland playground by Cleveland Police Officer Timothy Loehmann with partner Frank Garmback present. A nearby surveillance video captured the incident and no charges were filed against the officers. The Rice family did win a wrongful death suit and awarded $6 million dollars.

   History has not been kind to victims of police brutality and officer-involved shootings. There is a lingering stench from the situations mentioned and also the many more that weren't.

   The other ticky situation is the proper way to charge a case like that of the East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld. As we have learned through the trial that acquitted George Zimmerman of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin of Florida. It wasn't even the fact that if Zimmerman had killed Martin which was established, it then became the process and if the premeditated intent was there in the act of shooting an unarmed minor. As we now know, this process of charging Zimmerman with 2nd Degree Murder proved to be a mistake as his self-defense stance held up in court.

   There are so many factors alive and in play right now with the city of Pittsburgh, it's surrounding communities, and the rest of the world's fight for justice for all. Fight hard, fight smart and may grace be on your side. As long as our government etches the name J. Edgar Hoover as a symbol on the current FBI building, it is fair to guess which side of the coin of justice our "system" is on.

Friday, September 23, 2016

In the Fight for What is Right, the Color of Your Skin Does Not Matter

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  I am not a self-hating white man. Racism is real. White privilege does exist.

  Now that that is out of the way, I think it is very important to examine what is going on in our society and the polarizing actions of our police, political leaders, judicial system and corporate executives. This is a tough time in America, but the sad reality is that this is nothing new. This may be confusing to many. It depends on, not only which part of this country you live, but the color of one's skin. Do not let the title of this piece be misleading, the color of your skin most definitely does matter. That is apparent in the tragedies going on right now. Innocent, unarmed citizens losing their lives at the hands of trigger happy police, professional athletes receiving death threats for peaceful and silent protests, wildly inappropriate lengthy sentencing going on in our courts, as well as racist behavior from our political leaders. There is one common denominator in who is affected the most in all of the situations listed above. African-Americans are unfairly paying the price for simply being black or brown. I understand this is a very strong accusation to make. I have the confidence to say this because of the empirical evidence surrounding all of these situations. To name some of the people who are no longer able to take a breath because of being murdered by police actions or while in custody since 2012: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Jonathan Ferrell, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Laquan McDonald, Akai Gurley, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Samuel DuBose, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

  The color of our skin should not limit our involvement in fighting against injustice. This is about the truth and recognition of a major problem in our society. I understand that there is level of respect involved for white individuals who approach these situations with good intentions. There is vernacular that must be consciously adjusted when entering these situations and a very big understanding of avoiding belittling the struggle of others by saying things like we and us. There is no getting around that this is a very difficult arena to enter into for a lot of people. But, I do not want to see people simply avoid standing up for what is right and getting involved because of the fear of not being politically correct. I will not accept an excuse that,  "I don't want to make things worse" or "I do not know what to say and how to say it without pissing people off." The greatest accomplishments in the history of our nation have been done with tremendous resistance. You name the amazing feat and it won't take you more than a few seconds to do a Google search and find results of who opposed it. Our generation should be working together to teach and learn from each other and use history as a resource to right the wrongs of our past. If you live in a community where you are not experiencing the horrible tragedies that dominate the news, I will challenge you to do the best that you can to understand what is happening. Just because it isn't happening to you doesn't mean that it isn't happening.

  This is a time for many of us to get involved and one of the most powerful places to start is to listen! This is a time to showcase empathy and offer an ear to those who are misunderstood, targeted and unfairly pushed to the side by our society. If someone is passionately fighting for something that you don't understand, please support them by showing a genuine care for what is going on. A good start is asking a person who is hurting and protesting, "Why do you feel this way?" The conversation needs to be happening to close the gap between those who are in the streets marching and those in the suburbs watching from afar. Don't tell someone, "Yeah I understand," ask them, "Can you help me understand?"

  The support from the white communities is necessary to make this a lasting change for future generations on which to build. Sometimes, it isn't a matter of solving the problem. This problem has been present since day 1. But, we have the power to make it better for our children, and hopefully they can make it better for their children, and so on. This is a sacrifice that doesn't even scratch the level of sacrifices that the African ancestors had to make under the circumstance of their arrival into this country. Our entire economy that we are thankful to be a part of and quote as the greatest nation in the world, was built by the enslaved Africans.

  This is our fight. This is all of our fight. Truth, love and happiness doesn't have a color. I strongly advise everyone to get involved and play our part to make our time on this Earth as productive as humanly possible. Do not think because you are white that you can't help. That is not true and I must say that the powerful black men and women in my life are the reason I am writing this article. I know that we all have the same objective. Together we will not tolerate unjust violence, we will protect communities. We will stand up for the safety of all, women, children, man and animals.

  "There has never been a successful revolution in the history of the world without our women right by our side blasting their guns and fighting with all of us!" - Immortal Technique. Think about that for a second and how powerful that is. Let's be the generation that has all race, ethnicity and gender uniting to fight for what is right! Fighting for the human rights of everyone! Fighting for what is right. Our skin color shouldn't dictate if we are in the game or on the sideline. We are all in the game. Let's get together and make this a better place to live and prosper for everyone.

  My heart goes out to the families and communities of every victim of wrongful death at the hands of police. Positive energy and vibrations to everyone out there in the streets, from every city in this country, who has had their lives changed forever. Tonight in Charlotte, North Carolina and the surrounding areas, be safe. Rest in power Mr. Keith Lamont Scott.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Solo debut album Travel Through by Moemaw Naedon - Review

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artwork by: Ronnie Hicks

  I'm very excited to present my review of the solo debut album, Travel Through, from Moemaw Naedon out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Surface Level Records.  This is the third album that Naedon has been a part of, but his first solo LP which was executive produced by Billy Hoyle.  The previous two releases, Gallactic Brethren with Brother Seamus and Circular Signals with The Latebloomer were phenomenal albums that I recommend you go get!  I must say that I am very impressed with Moemaw Naedon's ability to give each of his projects their own identity and listening experience while maintaining the substance and core style that has you there as a fan to begin with.  That is very, very difficult to do.  I have been a huge fan of artists with commercial success that have been unable to give you multiple albums that stand on their own which can seperate themselves from previous works while maintaining their flair.  I really feel that Travel Through really lets you in to the creative world and ability of Naedon.

  Track 1, Idle at the Edge, starts off with a little taste of what is coming with a smooth and simple start.  Track 3, Grass Blades, really jumps out and grabs you!  Very powerful sound that actually reminded me of Blackalicious Rhyme Like a Nut at first. I really liked this line, "Grass blades, sharks in the caves, what's the next vessel when the body parts ways from the light that you hold long term in the maze, soul searching sound waves."  Beautiful.  Then Track 4, Travel Through, really maintains the energy and flow with a wicked beat that has some really nasty drums.  It tails down into a very dark backdrop that is intoxicating.  Very interesting progression that I dig very much.  Track 5, Digital Wolf, takes you on a wild ride in which I picture Kool Keith appearing in a rabbit suit asking you if you are ready to see just how deep the hole goes.  Track 7, A Quarter Day Ago, is a super smooth jam that leaves you with your mean face on bobbing your head to each word smiling just waiting to say ooohhhhhhh, "Late night, planned flight trying to get the plan right, reflections in the day shape the feelings that I can't fight" as the words fade and perfectly paced piano takes over.  Track 9, From the Start, has a strong beat that made feel back to the days as a teenager bumping jams in your ride with a system just letting that baseline ride out on full blast letting that clean rumble provide the soundtrack to your evening.  That was a great way to end this certified banger!  This is definitely done with high integrity to the real Hip Hoppa and I know many will agree with me when they give this a listen to.  Go out and get it!
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Go to the links below to get yourself a copy of this great Hip Hop album you will be blasting on the regular.

Free Download Track: Travel Through

Purchase Album on iTunes

Purchase Album on Amazon

Follow Moemaw Naedon on Facebook


Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Soul Pros are Your Prescription for Funk

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   I have been very happy to have the opportunity to have lived in Denver, Colorado over this past year.  It is a beautiful city with a booming economy and tons of great shows going on all of the time.  I was able to find my favorite hip hop group in Colorado, The Soul Pros, and have enjoyed every performance since that time.  In my opinion they are the front-runner in regards to adhering to the high standards of genuine Hip Hop culture.  The group consists of Aaron Ladley AKA DJ A-L, emcees Mike Wird and Pavlo Kee.  Their name actually does them justice as these three young men have plenty of soul incase you're lacking that key ingredient in your life.  They are a real throwback to the days of having dance parties, graffiti, cyphers and DJ's just getting funky with break beats.  They have performed live art/ dance party shows that are some of the most fun I've ever had dancing and smiling for an evening.  All the elements are well represented when they are in the house!  You will see Mike Wird during a set pass the mic and jump out into the B-Boy circle and get down!!  These are some very conscious smart cookies here too, as Pavlo earned his doctorate recently in Environmental Engineering.

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  An interesting personal story that really made me smile was during the first show I attended at Goosetown Tavern, I was introduced to Mike Wird before the show started and when I said I was from Pittsburgh he automatically said, "J-Sands is my man!!!"  I definitely perked up and said I'm in the right place right now.  For those of you reading this and are unfamiliar with J-Sands, please look him up as well as the Lone Catalysts, you won't be sorry.  They have one the most vibrant stage shows I have been to and have thoroughly enjoyed the energy and substance they bring.  They are true fans of music and understand what it means to represent in front of an audience and engage with them.  I can't tell you how many times DJ A-L has made me lost my shit and jumped into a B-Boy circle with very high level dancers.  Not giving a care in the world, just reacting to the vibes of some great soul and funk music.  That is what it's about.  Losing yourself in the moment and just being.  I think we all need that in our lives and I appreciate the way they master their craft.  I have also met some incredible people over the time of attending shows and getting down with these guys.

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They have the support from one of my all-time favorite people in Hip Hop, A.C. The Program Director, the founder of and former B-Boy for the world famous L.A. Breakers and current protector of the funk as a DJ and host of his powerful radio show.  Please get familiar with this crew!

Purchase this awesome EP on vinyl:
Collector's Edition 45 RPM Vinyl 7"

For booking inquiries:
The Soul Pros

Follow them on Facebook:
The Souls Pros Official FB Page


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My reflection on Big Empty Things by Billy Pilgrim

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  The highly anticipated debut by Billy Pilgrim is finally here!  When I first heard that he was working on a solo project about a year and a half ago while passing on him on Murray Ave. in Squirrel Hill on crutches, my first response was one that I'm sure was shared by many, it's about fucking time!  Billy Pilgrim has been a consistent source of artistic talent and expression in Pittsburgh for many years.  A talented MC, musician, writer, poet, artist, performer and DJ, still makes me think I'm leaving out some more attributes that makes him a very unique soul.  The eight track EP titled, Big Empty Things, is now available.  I was lucky enough to have this sent to me in December to really take it in.  I am very impressed with the overall sound and feel of this album.  I'm a product of an analog world that is now being pushed away further and further with each passing year, that in this new digital era, I often find so many bodies of work to resemble each other too closely.  That's not a good thing.  As all the albums that I enjoy and take the time to share and write about, they have the special ability to have their own identity; and this EP embodies that.

   The instrumentation use of percussion really brought about a tribal feel in the intro, The Road, featuring Guitar Zak, that stayed consistent throughout the EP.  This is a very original arrangement, yet more importantly, is in Billy Pilgrim's wheel house of style.  It's a very spiritual and soothing rhythm to the album that flows into my favorite jam on track 2, Pilgrimage, featuring Unsung and Shad Ali.  I loved the choice here for these two features as all three emcee's roll off the tongue in their own talented way.  The ending verse by Shad Ali, "Aesthetically I got these stripes like a referee, cause beauty and the beast fucked and gave birth to me." was something that made me smile.  Billy takes complete lyrical command on track 3, So it Goes and showcases his ability to switch up cadence and deliver with complete control.  Track 5, The Hoek is faced paced give and take with Unsung as they go back and forth feeding off each other every couple of bars.  It reminded me of an Blackalicious Alphabet Aerobics with a partner.  Billy touches base with his spoken word skills on track 6, Sucker Punch.  It is a nice transition to tmy favorite overall song, rack 7, Melancholy Milly, which is a beautiful soul song.  It took me back to The Pharcyde, Otha Fish, on this vibe that can take your mind away.  A strong finish with track 8, Selfies at the Funeral seeps into a more serious side of Billy Pilgrim showing a no non-sense flow that wraps up this really great EP.  I thoroughly loved the ride I feel like I was taken on.  It was a beautiful blend of hip hop, soul and spoken word done with high level of artistic expression I come to expect.  I would love to see these songs performed live, which is really important to me.  I feel this was done in a way that showcased the ability without being overproduced and over synced in a studio.  This is really one that I recommend you check out.  
   The official release date is actually tomorrow, February 18.  There is an official party to celebrate at Howlers in Bloomfield tomorrow night for a $10 cover which includes a copy of Big Empty Things.  I hope you enjoy this album as much as I do and enjoy the future work of this multi-talented artist.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My reflection of Detonate by Amuck

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  Pittsburgh recording artist Amuck has an EP that was released at the end of November titled Detonate.  It has 4 tracks that were produced by Kiltervision at Battlemute productions with additional production done by Sikes.  I first heard Amuck perform with Sikes and Kiltervision at Diesel in 2010 as they opened up for one of my all time favorite hip hop groups, Jedi Mind Tricks.  I was really impressed with the live performance for a few reasons.  To be honest the crowd turn out that early in the evening was very poor, but the energy and music that I was seeing made me get up and get closer to the stage as I was impressed to see it being performed at a high level.  I think that tells a lot about the bands character and passion when faced with an event where there is a below average turn out, the band rocks it as if they were performing in front of 20,000 people.  That really stuck with me.  The bottom line is, no matter how much passion you have, the music has to be original and have feeling.  It has to come across as an extension of the people performing it and I really dug what I was experiencing.  That's exactly what an Amuck live show is, an experience.  Of all the shows I've seen from any level of success, from the commercially iconic names in rock and hip hop to the indie level of punk, I always thoroughly enjoyed my experience at every Amuck show I've attended.  It's something that I think is one of the highest compliments that you can give an artist is that they are able to rock a stage and pour their skills and creativity into a package that lets you into their world.  It's a special attribute a lot of people and bands just simply don't have.

  Detonate is short release but isn't short on content.  It's definitely hard and unfair to compare this music since it is very original.  It is on my hip hop blog because there is a lot of characteristics that are alive that fit a hip hop style.  Amuck, Sikes and Kiltervision all have emcee skills on the mic.  The beats are laced with some hard hitting rock, electronica, punk, hip hop feel.  If I have to lay some music that it reminds me of when I hear it, just name of a few Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Rage Against the Machine, Jedi Mind Tricks, Beastie Boys and Cage come to mind.  A lot of pure hip hop heads have a lot of interest in other genres like metal, punk and alternative rock and would find this to be refreshing.  The first track on this EP is NA (Necrophiliacs Anonymous).  It's got a real alternative electric pace to the track and is a good track placement to start off the album.  It poses some interesting points on some ways that Amuck would like to be more like a teen idol, making it rain, being more accessible finishing with you can tell him over his dead body about what he is supposed to be.  The next rack Binge is probably my favorite song of the EP.  The beat is more up my alley on things that I'm really into, making me bob my head as I walk down the street every time this blasts through my headphones.  A little more upbeat with drums that are funky.  I like the contrast with the beat and the way that Amuck sings the chorus with a really strong pitch that will make you want to jump up to the stage and sing right along with him.  Switching gears again with Magnets, this is back to a more electronic feel, slowing down with some singing that goes into a flow that would be reminiscent of El-P.  It's a challenging delivery packed with a lot of energy.  I do like the reference to "tagging his heart up" with the sound of a rattling spray paint can in the background stating that "no one gets me."  Lord knows I have only felt that way most of the time, haha.  The EP finishes strong with Dark Matter.  A louder, chaotic track that I think is a good way to end this EP stating "Fuck religion, mother fuck politics, fuck these pigeons that are dropping bombs on my car and shit.  If you're listening to me and you don't think that I'm ill, I'm going to recommend an entire bottle of sleeping pills.".  But my man is always open for constructive criticism.

  I enjoyed this EP and I think it's a strong piece of work done on his terms.  That is what I have found very refreshing.  Please check this album out for yourself here:
Amuck Bandcamp

Amuck Facebook

I strongly recommend to go see a live show as soon as you can to take part in the high energy experience. There aren't many of them out there. Amuck Detonate photo detonate_zps82efaeca.jpg Enjoy,

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My reflection of Circular Signals by The Latebloomer & Moemaw Naedon

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"No commercial junk, its that grown man funk." - Double K from People Under the Stairs "On and On".

   That is exactly how I feel about this album, Circular Signals by The Latebloomer & Moemaw Naedon on Surface Level Records.  It is a very cerebral listening experience that I thoroughly enjoy.  All the beats were produced by The Latebloomer and I am very impressed with his work on this, these beats were exquisite.  The strong core of jazz flowing through this album just made me smile.  It gave me a legitimately good feeling knowing that I'm listening to some genuine  hip hop music.  Moemaw Naedon is an incredible lyricist that showed me more of his writing ability on this project.  There are great features with Brother Seamus, Joey Smooth, Connect Rhymes and Frigid Giant.

    It starts out strong with The Minute, it perked me up in my seat and Naedon jumps out the gate setting the tone over a melodic beat, "I spend my days waiting for the night, that's when I sit and sort signals and reflect them like a satellite." Parallel Perceptions is a great gear downshift to smooth things out and ride with a transient horn.  Track three, The Line really grabbed me and was really impressed with Naedon opening up a lot more on this song with this very striking verse of, "I heard the hi-hat whisper on the snare yell, the kick drum said something but I can't tell, try to decipher what they speak but I can't spell it out quite yet let it fester in the brain cells."  There is a gentle guitar pluck that really allows the words to stand on the images they are creating and this made me open up my notebook and write this down the first time I heard it.  The Latebloomer came in next keeping the story going really strong with, "And I almost blew a gasket, surly on the train, headphones couldn't mask it, thoughts up in my brain about how full could the flask get, left with a bunch of questions no heart to ask it."  The chorus just keeps everything glued together, "What happened to them good times?  You know, the time when everything was properly aligned. Never knew it, but you stood knee deep inside.  A moment when you look back and watch yourself collide.  A scope inside your heart can poke into the darkest eye and intercept the vibes clouded by the sound of lies.  I heard the voice and the beat is telling me to rhyme, we aint gonna waste your time, let's run it down the line." That is poetry my friends!  Track six really picks things up a bit and just got my head bobbing with The Lighthouse feat. Frigid Giant.  The speed and flow that just comes off the tongue so easy, Frigid Giant makes me interested to hear more from him.  Track seven, A Passing Face gave me a nice dish that was reminiscent of a masterpiece from John Dankworth.  There is a very subtle part, that really bit me, "...and that's my only way home, I don't even know where the fuck that is, where the fuck is that? lost my way."  I am currently bouncing around in a new city without a home and I was walking around downtown on a Saturday playing this for the first time and I just laughed to myself and said, Yeah! I know how you feel! haha.  Track nine, Trife Magic feat. Brother Seamus is one of my favorite beats on the album.  I found myself going back to that one over and over to hear that horn with those delicious drums.  It's one of my favorite overall flows for sure.
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   Track eleven, Styles Unbelievable took me back to the days in the 80's into the 90's when crews were really strong and kicking music together.  It reminded me of something from the Native Tongues just getting down and feeding off each other.  That shit is just not happening anymore for whatever reason and this was super refreshing.  Joey Smooth came in after Nadeon and fed off his middle name given in the verse and I loved it!  Too many albums, even great albums over the years, are just too sectioned off, probably recorded in different locations and different times and don't even really go together.  "I came to save the planet, kick ass like Power Rangers....this is some Samuel L. Jackson with a light sabre ish."  Joey Smooth for the win! Then Connect comes up and feeds off Joey's middle name, and it was a really chill song where they came together to keep it fun.  That's the thing that was really refreshing about this whole body of work was that, it was very introspective but you know these guys genuinely love music and were having fun.  That's huge.
   Track fourteen, Straight to the N.O.  by Brother Seamus is the perfect finish.  This was Brother Seamus at his best.  There was a sense of urgency on this, it was almost like someone sat him down and gave him an ultimatum that this was his last chance and he stepped up the fuck up.  There was regular season Jordan, then there was playoffs Jordan.  And this was playoffs Seamus. I would be curious to hear from him where his writing process and motivation came from on this song, because he owned this from start to finish.  This was great track order to place this last, really strong finish.  I definitely took a step back and said damn, what woke up the monster.  You have all loved an emcee, and know when something comes out that you just say damn, he was really feeling this one.  And this was that moment in the career for Brother Seamus.

   Circular Signals is definitely M.G. approved!  This is the kind of hip-hop I want to see live as well, and recommend to do what you can to go see them when they come to your city!  The only thing I can really say is that I hope these guys stay hungry and keep challenging themselves with new beats, styles and growing in their writing.  This album needs to get out there and reach as many people as possible and it's times like this where it makes me happy to have the platform to communicate and share great music and have the trust from artists who send me music and allow me to do this.  Please go purchase this album on iTunes at this link below:
Circular Signals on iTunes

Circular Signals Website
Surface Level Records

Hope you enjoyed,