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EP Review: Blaqstarr – The Divine


Blaqstarr’s Divine EP is a dedication to feminine perfection and an offering to Gaia. But this is still a Blaqstarr record; like previous offerings, it’s hyperactive and sex-charged, albeit built more for the bedroom than the club. Over just six songs, Blaqstarr moves further down the rabbit hole, continuing to push and pull at the confines of Baltimore club music, crafting something more soulful and dramatic than ever before.

Serving as an introduction to the bizarre trip that follows, “All the World” kicks off the EP. Chopped vocal loops and frenetic live drums build to a crescendo under Blaqstarr’s off-time (and ocassionally off-key) crooning. The title track picks up where “All the World” left off, focusing those Neptunesque live drums and bouncy melody. It builds predictably until the mid-song breakdown. Over droning guitars and an underlying Bmore beat, Blaq freaks out with a call-and-response refrain of “Can I lick your ice cream?” Bringing both strands back together is the kind of chaos for which he’s known.

One of the strongest songs on the EP is actually a reworking of a track that has been around since at least 2007. “Rider Girl” is a poignant tribute to deceased Baltimore legend K Swift. Falling somewhere between “Supastarr” and “Automatic Lover” in Blaqstarr’s body of work, the song serves as a bridge between the club music that Swift championed and the new school that Blaqstarr owns and operates.

The strength of the EP is Blaqstarr’s skill in digging deeper into the roots and relatives of Baltimore club, refreshing a sound that is starting to stagnate. “Wonder Woman” is a bluesy jam steeped in P-funk, conjuring images of Blaq armed with just an acoustic guitar. His off-kilter line “she licked the gun / when she done / and said revenge is sweet” and the ghost of a club beat just below the surface are both unnerving and enticing. “Oh My Darlin” is Blaqstarr at his most minimal, featuring only haunting synth lines, wistful vocals, and a Prince meets Kanye rhythm. The EP closes with the even-more melancholy “Turning Out,” a true 808 heartbreaker.

While The Divine might not feature a breakthrough single like “Shake It to the Ground,” it does more to cement Blaqstarr as an essential voice in music – someone unafraid to confront expectations and worship in his own way.

EP Review: Munchi – Murda Sound


Covering music on the leading edge is hard work. Between filtering through recommendations by artbiters of culture and unearthing new sounds and styles by happenstance, there are plenty of ways to go out about it. However, it usually isn’t delivered fully-formed, swaddled like an infant on the stoop of an orphanage. But with the discovery of Munchi, that’s what it feels like.

Munchi, the Dominican in Rotterdam, nearly as synonymous with moombahton as Dave Nada, has arrived. But like TGRI’s Artist of the Year, it’s clear that Munchi is far more than a producer of one style, and his debut EP, Murda Sound, proves that beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Murda Sound is a six song EP, released today on T&A Records. Throughout, Munchi’s range of influence (hinted at on his various moombahton releases) is even more impressive than expected.

The EP kicks off with the electro-dancehall of “Shottas” (featuring Mr. Lexx) and it’s club edit, propelled by an uneven, syncopated beat and the ubiquitous toast “wake up and tell the people.”

“Toma Essa Pora” is a Baltimore club meets baile funk banger, with chopped up samples that are juke-like in their intensity and urgency. The song even includes the oft-sample “Darkest Light” by the Lafayette Afro Rock Band (ed. note: thanks to Cam Jus for identifying this).

The club fest continues on the title track, which lives up to it’s name. The song starts with the mind-shattering take on club that we’ve heard from Nadastrom and Steve Starks. But halfway through, things get much more intense, with B-more breaks and some sinister bass blasts. This is probably the darkest, most futuristic take on club since Dave Nada’s “Apocalypse Theme.”

The back-end of the EP finds Munchi flexing his mellow side. “Hope” is a down-tempo R&B groove that devolves into smoothbahton, again, with a vocal sample reminiscent of juke. “Madre, no llores” is some purple dubstep that might actually bring a tear to your eye.

Munchi is a jack of all trades, and master of all. Murda Sound is the first proper look at a producer ready to make moombahton and dancehall, club and dubstep all his own. Throughout, Munchi’s trademark whistle sample announces his arrival like “The Farmer in the Dell” announced Omar on The Wire. And while Omar went after drug dealers, Munchi’s coming for other producers. My advice for them? “You come at the king, you best not miss.”

FIVE OUT OF FIVE STARS.