There is a lot to like about compilation albums (especially ones with newer tracks), mainly seeing some of your favorite artists on one project while finding new ones you might like in the future, along with the person that brought it all together. Meet Marlon Sassy, a writer/illustrator who loves to draw gangsta rappers, players, thugs, and pretty much anything from hip-hop culture through a series of doodles he makes on 3″ x 3′ sticky notes, and now he’s planning to turn all that into a book with Gangster Doodles.
In fact, Sassy has been planning a lot of things for the brand with the book, some animation projects, a graphic novel in the works, and now… an album in the form of Gangster Music, Vol. 1. Early impressions of the album, from the Kaytranada instrumental, “Well I Bet Ya” (as previously heard and rapped by Mick Jenkins in a non-album single, “What am I to Do?”) to the Madlib/Oh No collab “Big Whips” (along with its crazy Pink Panther-based music video) sparked my interest. Looking at who else is appearing here, including rappers and producers like JonWayne, Onra, Father, Jeremiah Jae, Blu, Exile and countless others, I’m definitely on board with this.
Also for those wondering if I’ll like something that’s an hour and 16 minutes long with 27 tracks… Look, I saw the tracklist, and nothing about it makes me cringe.
In fact, you can outright say that I love this! Yeah, I really love this! There isn’t too much to go into, but if you’re looking for gangsta music as it’s advertised, then you’re getting it, but it’s not just that one type of gangsta music. You will get some trap sounds, funky vibes, smooth and experimental joints and even some surprises from people you would never expect.
Take, for example, the Father track “Cruel” which is on a smooth player vibe, and I’m loving what I’m hearing on Meltycanon’s production. I’m hoping whatever Father has lined up next has this sound or something similar to because it bops. Probably the most trap-sounding song here is from JayAllDay with “1-800 Killer Whale,” and you can tell from the first second this starts that it’s some trap shit. Good trap shit, mind you.
Jeremiah Jae on “Tell Me” drops some good bars:
Keep moving on the block, G
Before they start shooting like paparazzi (Pah)
Feel like the cops is nazi
American history exed out your own history
Now it’s just a mystery
Schools ain’t meant for me, it’s by design
[?] or we tryna rhyme?
A life of crime or we serving time?
Tell me what I gotta do to get by
The instrumental cuts have a weird smoothness to them like JonWayne’s “Welch Grape”, Mndsgn’s “Noodles” & Lemonwater’s “LoVibe,” but probably the most distinct instrumental cuts are from Dream Panther’s “KCRW” which sounds like an indie rock song but after a minute has a beat breakdown that I really dug. There’s also Onra (a name that was actually in my Best of 2018 List in Honorable Mentions for his album ‘Nobody Has to Know’) producing the track “$$$ Can’t Buy Love,” and that has the same late night 90s aesthetic that was present on his last album. You even get a dose of Quelle Chris before his next album drops on “Brain of the Ape,” and it is definitely something you would expect from him.
You also have some vibey street sounds from Budgie and Traffic with “On My Shit” and “Hip Hop (Remix)” from Blu, Exile & Choosey, which remind me a lot of the style of many Stones Throw artists or anyone associated with them past or present. If there’s a track I didn’t really feel that much, it was Max B’s “Flash Dance”. That song just went in and out of my ear, and the beat was a little weak (Oh, and I was going to bring up the Your Old Droog track, but apparently it wasn’t listed on the Bandcamp site, and while it was on Spotify, now it can’t be played or it wasn’t supposed to be on there in the first place.)
Yes, this is a long project we have in store, but this is the type of album that offers variety in both the sounds and the artists featured. There isn’t really any track that sounds annoying to my ears; maybe there’s one that I don’t feel that much, but nothing that makes me feel really negative towards it.
Gangster Music, Vol. 1 offers what the title implies, and it delivers that in spades with its varying vibes from chill, smooth, rough trap and experimentally challenging. Not only did Sassy get all these hip-hop producers/rappers in one compilation, but the performers absolutely were superb in their cuts. This is probably one of the best hip hop projects to come in 2019, and it’s only March (at the time of this writing).
VERDICT: Buy it. So…. when’s that Gangster Music, Vol. 2?
Gangster Music, Vol. 1 is available via All City Records on CD, digital download, vinyl, cassette and on streaming services. You can buy it on their Bandcamp.