Max Bell is headed overseas.
Germany, Thailand, Singapore, Maryland, Los Angeles—Azizi Gibson has never not been on the move. Raised as perpetually mobile military brat, he has no real hometown. As a result, it seems he’s not bound by any particular regional sound or set of aesthetic criteria. There’s no scholarly (read: sometimes cringingly derivative) adherence to NY boom-bap, to re-flipped/rehashed Premier and Pete Rock breaks and samples. The 310, 323, and 213 were only accessible via Dre and Snoop records, so the G-funk synths and bass lines aren’t necessarily ingrained and/or obligatory. Basically, though he’s in LA now, Z’s music still operates outside of a particular geographic locale. It is all the better for it.
Signing to Brainfeeder mere months after a chance gym encounter with Flying Lotus, Z seems to sonically fit in alongside acts like the ever spaced out Ras G, and the ostensibly Beast/East Coast Underachievers, whose sound has rarely felt boxed in by NY traditionalism. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at his 2009 tape Ghost Ship, where mellow jazz samples and light crooning are punctuated by shots fired in a laser tag arena (“More About Us”) and haunting organs sound as if they’re being played inside of a church turned interstellar arcade (“Robbery @ 12”). For lack of better phrasing, Azizi’s beat selection is all over the map.
Where Z differs from label cohorts The Underachievers is in his lyrics. The dense, third eye psychedelics of Issa Dash and AK are absent, and Azizi even makes jokes about rappers dropping “science” (“Lover$”). The honesty and introspection remain for the most part, but his bars have a more commercial appeal/bent. Money, weed, women, and a middle finger for other rappers/those not down with the clique seem to be the most common tropes.
That sums up a majority of radio MCs (and a lot of rappers in general), but he’s honestly a much more capable rapper than someone like Wiz Rose-Khalifa, and more fun to listen to. Really, what makes Azizi most interesting is that he seems like he’d be as comfortable rhyming over FlyLo productions and trading verses with Scoop Deville and Stones Throw heavyweight (read: the best white rapper in 2013) Jonwayne as he would be rapping over Harry Fraud backdrops next to someone like French Montana (not that he’d ever work with the latter). In other words, Z never feels out of place when he’s rhyming, he is a hybrid in the Danny Brown sense of the word. He can pull your hipster chick, smoke with her, hit the hood, and then rap about it all over Brainfeeder-esque beats.
Azizi’s progression of late, both in terms of beat selection and rhyming dexterity, has been steady and great to watch. Phuck Deluxe (below the jump) is solid, but his last tape with fellow Brainfeederan (maybe?) Jeremiah Jae, Ignorant Prayers, which was probably one of the most slept on tapes from 2012, is where you should start.
Ignorant Prayers is a self-aware collection of tracks about all that we’re told we shouldn’t value or pray for. Over Jeremiah Jae’s seemingly inexhaustible range of beats, it’s part antithesis of the materialism the ever-hypocritical Kanye has been railing about lately and part hedonism and unabashed misogyny at its most hilarious (“Tune in next track, where I’m probably talking about your bitch sucking my dick”).
His recent singles have been in anticipation of Ghost in the Shell, his mixtape dropping June 15th. The title track (below the jump) is one of his best songs to date. The laid-back and hazy beat is like something you might buy at local dispensary, inducing a mellow type euphoria, or something. Lyrically, “Ghost in the Shell” is the best distillation of Azizi’s bio and his psyche. The nomadic past (and future), the weed, the women, and the antipathy for haters—it’s all on display. But there’s also a move, however slight, to look at the world outside of himself. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s promising.
Below the jump you’ll find a few more of Azizi’s latest. I recommend the Jeremiah Jae produced “8th Street” and the Millz Dxuglas produced “SSB (100 MPH).” Play them as you wait for June 15th when the face of the ghost in the shell shall be revealed and game will inevitably get real.
Azizi Gibson – Phuck Deluxe (Left-Click)
Azizi Gibson & Jeremiah Jae – Ignorant Prayers (Left-Click)