Category Archives: Reporting

Fashion: District

My review of fashion: district for Brightest Young Things:

Saturday’s fashion: District was a vibrant testament to the creativity, vitality, and relevance of DC’s fashion scene. Much akin to the much-maligned, non-existent DC hip hop scene, many would not exactly conflate DC and a fashion hub. ReadySetDC have single-handedly put DC fashion on the map, showcasing designers that are not only visionaries but who put out high-caliber, professional work well-deserving of the couture label. Plainly-put, it is not every day that you find yourself feeling like you are in Pret-A-Porter or The September Issue in the middle of DC and ReadySetDC are the ones who made it happen with such panache and flair.

Ginger Root Design were a true breath of fresh air with vintage-inspired, smart and original designs. Perfecting the art of upcycling [making something new out of something already in existence], the style was equally parts London-esque, tweed-and-zipper chique and something that Maggie Gyllenhaal in Secretary would wear. Zooey Deschanel/Manic Pixie Girl would definitely rock Ginger Root! Their designs were funky yet not groan-inducingly, self-referentially hipsterish.The colors were bold yet the patterns were not busy and relied more on a blocks rather than smashing of patterns approach.As the only designer to use “normal-sized” models, it was apparent that while Ginger Root make high-end fashion, their clothes were designed with a more pragmatic brush stroke and with at least some concern for practicality.Their menswear collection was particularly enthralling with two of the more memorable outfits being a tweed jacket with a zipper slicing a diagonal across the front and three leather straps as a closure and gingham shirt under a vest with a three-layered tie composed of overlapping triangles. The vest had a horizontal band of gray silk on the back, making for an extremely interesting layered visual effect.

Espion presented a really unique line of high-end evening couture. Some of the dresses were a really innovative mash-up of dominatrix meets Greek-goddess evening gown elegance. If you can imagine Athena channeling Madonna during the Blonde Ambition tour, you would get a pretty accurate idea. Other dresses were extremely regal—white and made of a stretchy material for a very sophisticated look.

Hugh & Crye delivered a very trendy men’s business wear line—it was solid and respectable and more than a little style. Artaya relied heavily on black, red, and white blocky ensembles with a nod to interesting textures.

SaintCHIC’s style was street-savvy yet high-fashion.For example, a lot of the skirts and pants relied on a “mummy” technique—they were comprised of overlapping-“bandages”/swaths of fabric.Definitely very unique and clever, and maybe a bit inspired by elements in industrial-scene wear which has been using straps on men-skirts for a good while now.The tops show-cased really layered framing necklines with a vaguely graffiti-esque feel that was equally parts hip-hop-dancer-sassy and classy.

Sika’s designs screamed creativity.Some of the fabrics had traditional African prints; some were very Asian.There were daringly plunging necklines and wee little bottom pieces, with bold colors such as orange and batik-like prints.Anthropologie would have been jealous!

Durkl’s line this season was downright underwhelming, at worst, and incredibly confusing, at best, especially considering how well-established and popular their line is.I think I was not alone in my luke-warm response to the fall collection, but maybe like the Post, I just don’t get it.At times, it seemed like they were channeling men’s wear circa Gap 1980, at other times, it seemed like their colors were literally popsicle- inspired [think patterns ala those fourth of July garish blue and red ones].

Derringer Friday deserve credit for figuring out how to make men’s ties swagger-worthy [common, it’s not an easy job]. Having female models strut around only in men’s shirts and thigh-high boots to “Ain’t Nuthin’ But A G Thing” will do that. Their end-of-the-show drinking-a-beer signature gimmick was also interesting, if a little befuddling. Oh, yeah—the ties were great too.

Fashion: District was a perfect mix of flair, swagger, style, finesse, and hard work and definitely an all-around rollicking good time.

Kollaboration DC: A Kaleidoscope Of Talent Shines

I covered this show for The Vinyl District.

By Toni Tileva | September 19, 2011 |

Kollaboration DC’s annual concert was a dazzling showcase of talent that transcended genre boundaries and shattered preconceptions.

Founded eleven years ago, Kollaboration is an Asian-American non-profit organization whose motto, “empowerment through entertainment” truly embodies its ethos—to present the public with positive, and more importantly, accurate images of Asian-Americans.

While community empowerment is integral to its mission, the entertainment aspect weighs equally heavily in the equation, to the benefit of anyone who has ever attended any of Kollaboration’s musical events. Saturday’s show at the University of The District of Columbia was a well-organized, rollicking affair, whose contest format did not in any sense harken of dreaded American Idol overtones or, even worse, stereotypical talent show fodder—because everyone in it was ridiculously talented.

University of Maryland’s classical Indian dance troupe Moksha delivered a Mahabharata-in-motion, thunderous, ebullient routine. It was traditional, yet it was modern. It was classical, yet it was avant-garde. It was definitely breathtaking.

There were genre-mashups galore—Phillip Chang proved equally adept at piano, singing, and b-boy moves. Alec Zhang and Emily Barnes danced an ethereal waltz. Chip Han’s beat-boxing sounded turntable-enviable. Lionz of Zion, a local break-dancing crew, which includes Geoffrey “ToyzRUs” Chang, roared forth with a stunning, gravity-be-damned routine. Local rapper Sickboi, and fellow MC Lyricks, are definitely putting Virginia hip-hop on the map.

Kollaboration DC was a true celebration of spirit and community and, ultimately, a reminder that talent grows and flourishes even in the often-described-as-stodgy Washington DC.

Asian Female Emcees Amaze At UHall

I covered this show for The Vinyl District.
July 19, 2011

Sulu DC’s Saturday showcase Miss Fortune: Spotlight on AAPI Women in Hip-Hop was a vibrant celebration of the true ethos of hip hop: community.

Funded in part by the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and presented in conjunction with a number of community partners including Kollaboration DC, it was a tightly-run, eclectic showcase of talent that shattered stereotypes and expectations. If the only Asian MC you can name is Jin, you should have been at this show because while the artists were, yes, female, and yes, Asian-American, their viewpoints and styles were illustrative of the fact that these reductionistic labels are not keys to the grand creative milieu.

As spoken word artist and the show’s MC, Kelly Tsai put it, being a feminist and listening to most hip-hop often requires “selective listening” skills. As good fortune would have it, all you needed at this show was an open mind and open ears. The show was about girl power without being about girl power [the commercial version].

Sulu DC’s event was subversive by its very nature—where else can you go nowadays to hear Queen Latifah and Monie Love played [as spun by Sulu resident DJ The Pinstriped Rebel]!? The female artists took “Asian-American” and “female” from disenfranchised to identity-affirming, and all with a positive, uplifting stroke of the pen. It was definitely a “U.N.I.T.Y.” moment if there ever was one.

Spoken-word artist Kelly Tsai opened the show with her powerful piece “Real Women I Know” and kept the festivities moving with flair and comedic panache.

Kickrocks Crew, a local dance troupe, performed a hip-hop dance medley and got the crowd amped.

The true scene stealers of the show were a violin-and-MC sister duo from Brooklyn, Misnomer(S). Their powerhouse, raucous performance turned the oh-so-familiar cultural cliché of the violin-playing Asian kid on its head and then some. Knewdles and SOS’ natural synergy was palpable and single-handedly nudged the strings-and-hip hop paradigm out of its slumber [especially if P. Diddy’s cheesetastic tunes are what you are thinking of right now].

Knewdles described the theme of Misnomer(S)’ music as “identity”—the duo opened with the thought-provoking “For What It’s Worth,” which Knewdles explained was originally a piece that won her second-place in a slam poetry contest and first got her interested in MCing. “I was a poet before I was an emcee and I studied poetry in college.” She cites fellow Brooklynite Biggie as one of her major influences. “For What It’s Worth” could well be the anthem of the dual-identity generation—as an immigrant myself, Knewdles’ frustration with constantly being asked “no, where are you *really* from” and other equally inane off-shoots as “go back to your own country” [which, in her case, is America-doh!] rings especially true. Misnomer(S)’ music is refreshingly devoid of braggadocio and focused on relatable themes: living and working. In fact, their song “Worker Bee,” is one of the cleverest takes I have heard on the drone aspect of working to live and living to work, complete with smart references to Asian exploitation and the Chinese building railroads.

Knewdles’ passionate delivery, clearly well-honed from her stint in the slam circuit, inflects their music with a creative, indelibly feminine cadence and makes the duo really stand out in the indie hip hop circuit, along with fellow New Yorkers like Cool Calm Pete. If anything, it showcases that being confrontational and in-your-face is not requisite for delivering a social message or having something of value to say.

The show closed out with headliner Rocky Rivera, a seasoned MC from the Bay Area, who rapped like she had been at this for eons—with a professional, precise delivery that most male MCs would have been envious of, especially when one considers how hard it is to sound live like one sounds on record [have you ever been to a Wu Tang concert? Yeah, about that…]. With tons of swagger and style, Rocky evoked the golden days of Lil’ Kim. Her performance of “La Madrina” and “Married To The Hustle” got the crowd properly hyped.

SuluDC have artist showcases every month—definitely support their upcoming events!

Scottish Film Comes To SFSW

“Crying With Laughter” and “Erasing David,” two films featured in the SXSW Film Festival films by the FilmBuff company, lie on completely different sides of the movie spectrum.

Scottish film “Crying With Laughter” is an interesting cross between a dark psychological thriller/drama and a biopic on the stand-up comedy scene. Ne’er-do-well comedian Joey Frisk’s life is a precarious balancing act between gigs and nightly backstage debauchery. In the midst of all this, he also has a 6-year-old daughter, an ex-wife fed up with his antics and a landlord tired of not receiving his rent. As if Joey doesn’t have enough on his hands already, he runs into Frank, an old schoolmate of his, who happens to be in the audience one night. That is when things take a dramatic turn for the worse and go from chaotic to dangerous, kidnapping included. Frank is determined to drag Joey into a past that may or may not have occurred and has a vendetta he plans to see through.

Director Justin Molotnikov’s cinematography of beautiful Edinburgh is excellent, as is his use of a comedy routine as the narrative tool for telling the story. Malcolm Shields plays Joey with the perfect mixture of blustery bravado and goofy vulnerability. Even though the dark and violent element of the film comes out as a bit of a surprise, it is not so far-fetched as to be implausible. The plot is not melodramatic and while this is far from a comedy, there are enough lighthearted moments to interject the dark ones. The film is novel and refreshing in both the plot and genre-bending.

“Erasing David,” a documentary about our very imperiled privacy in the information age, has a good premise but awful execution. Director David Bond decides to go on the run and see if he can “take himself off the grid,” hiring a top private security firm to track him down. The film essentially follows three storylines: Bond’s quest to find out just how much information there is about him in various databases [public and otherwise], the efforts of the private investigators to find him and his own “in hiding” travel diary.

The stronger parts of the film are Bond’s narration of just how much information there is out there about him — including every car trip he has made into London, for example. A huge caveat is that the movie is set in the United Kingdom, and Bond is actually able to write to various companies and agencies and request they send to him all the information they have of him — a very unlikely scenario in the United States.

Bond’s interviews with people who have suffered due to “mistaken identity” scenarios where their names appear in databases are quite compelling and scary. His own travelogue, however, is hokey at best and inane at worst. He makes so many “mistakes” and leaves so many trails behind that it is almost as though he is not even trying to hide. He checks his e-mail, answers his cell phone and puts un-torn travel documents in the trash. The efforts of the private investigators are also not particularly impressive — Bond goes to visit his parents, a place they rather obviously assume he would go. It seems like neither Bond nor the private investigators are trying very hard. How often does rummaging through trash actually lead to important clues? Every time, apparently, according to “Erasing David.”

The movie is important in bringing to light how difficult, if not impossible, it is to maintain any sense of privacy in the age of surveillance and readily available information on any one of us. But it also brings up the important point that sometimes we are the ones who should monitor how much information we are making publicly available, be it on social networking sites or other means. It would have been much more interesting if Bond had interviewed more privacy experts with more insightful information, rather than platitudes most people already know or borderline hysteric doom-and-gloom commentary.

An Education Film Review

Review Of An Education:

“An Education” is a coming-of-age story set in 1960s London. The screenplay, written by Nick Hornby of “High Fidelity” and “About A Boy” fame, features his trademark clever dialogue and unconventional characters, aiming to inject levity into what could otherwise be the age-old school versus fun movie dilemma.
The main character, Jenny — played with a disarming charm by Carey Mulligan — is 16-years-old. She is intelligent, attractive and witty — think a ‘60s Rory from “Gilmore Girls.” She plays the cello, loves all things French and aspires to walk the hallowed halls of Oxford. Her parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour) are not your typical overachieving parents — in fact, Molina’s performance especially shines in the film.
While the entire family is bent on doing everything to get Jenny into her dream school, they are not the career-obsessed tormentors a la “Dead Poets Society.” Their droll humor and cheeky exchanges with their daughter make for some of the most entertaining scenes in the movie.
In one particularly amusing scene, Jenny’s father explains to her that Oxford wants “joiner-inners” and gives a hilarious analysis of one of her after-school activities and what the purpose of a hobby is in terms of college applications.
The banter between Jenny and her parents shows them to be, well — cool, which is yet another novelty in the coming-of-age film genre. It is precisely this coolness that introduces the conflict of why her parents, just like Jenny, fall for the ruses of a charming older man, twice Jenny’s age, David, played by Peter Sarsgaard.
Sarsgaard does an incredible job, portraying his character as a mixture of a disturbing borderline sexual predator and charming but thoroughly confused rake.
“An Education” raises a lot of class issues; David is able to charm Jenny only because he is able to take her on whirlwind trips to Paris, fancy restaurants and chic jazz clubs. Middle class Jenny bemoans that she has never had any fun and writes off her pre-David life as boring.
Yet there are plenty of warning signs that David is a conman, albeit a very charming one. This begs the question of why Jenny chooses to ignore what is right in front of her; after all, she is too clever and wise for such things. It is precisely this plot element that seems to be a stretch, yet our belief in it is pivotal. To loosely dismiss it all as “young love” and the folly of youth is almost too easy. Maybe it is precisely the glamour and wealth that makes Jenny and her parents go along with David’s elaborate web of lies.
One of the more poignant moments in the movie comes when Jenny demands to know why her dad, who is the old, wise and ever protective father, did not foresee the fallout. As she says, “Silly schoolgirls are always getting seduced by glamorous old men,” but that should not have been the case with her parents.
Therein lies one of the greater strengths of this movie — portraying the few options open to women in the 1960s. It seems that Jenny’s life paths appear to be limited to old-maidish schoolmarm or wife of a well-to-do man. In one exchange with her parents, Jenny sarcastically points out that apparently, education is merely an “expensive alternative to a dinner dance” and an end only in its enabling of one to become an educated housewife.
Ultimately, “An Education” asks which is more valuable: the school of life or formal education. The two are not evenly matched, however — David and his coterie are clearly not of ingénue Jenny’s ilk. As he says, “We are not clever like you.” They are, however, able to create their ridiculously fun and adventurous life precisely because of their questionably attained means, thus making the fun versus school dilemma not all that even.
Jenny’s English teacher asks her, “You can do anything, Jenny, you’re clever and pretty. Is your boyfriend interested in the clever Jenny?” The resounding “no” makes the end of the movie fairly predictable. Nevertheless, the film has enough idiosyncratic and enjoyable elements to make it worth seeing if one can suspend disbelief in some of the more far-fetched plot developments.

Wax Tailor Concert Review

Wax Tailor Review + Picture

French turntablist Wax Tailor’s tour in support of his recently released third album, “In The Mood For Life,” made its stop at DC9 on Thursday, Oct. 8. Wax Tailor’s name is very apropos: his unique blend of trip-hop, hip-hop, downtempo, clever movie samples, jazz and soul has garnered him many accolades, with his 1995 album “Tales Of The Forgotten Melodies” becoming one of the best-selling electronic releases of the year.

Wax Tailor’s new album perfectly showcases how natural and symbiotic the blend between hip-hop and downtempo can be. Since the release of DJ Shadow’s seminal album “Endtroducing,” many musicians such as DJ Krush, RJD2 (whom Wax Tailor previously toured with), DJ Vadim and others have shown that turntablism by its very definition is a genre-defying art form.

Wax Tailor has always had a consummate ability to build sonic blends — an ability that comes from having feet firmly planted in both the DJ-centric hip-hop culture and the beat-and-atmospherics world of trip-hop.

Astronautalis opened the show with an interesting shoegazer, rock-talking, blues-punk, hip-hop-Beck-esque hodgepodge. The set-up of electric cello and flutes on the stage signaled Wax Tailor’s natural musical evolution on this tour.

“I would say this album is a lot more organic; I have been working with a lot of orchestral stuff lately,” Wax Tailor explained to the audience.

A constant element throughout the entire performance was Wax Tailor’s live turntablism — he could have very easily relied on laptop wizardry but he worked the wax with the seasoned knowledge of a pro. Yet, he did not take center stage or allow the scratching to overtake the performance. In a subtle way, he used the turntables and vocal samples to work with the other musicians. Songs flowed together seamlessly creating a sonic landscape, and the entire set felt thoroughly uncontrived and flowed together perfectly, incorporating both the free-style format of hip-hop and the improvisational component of live music.

The set list consisted of material mostly from his new album, and with 19 tracks on the new release, there was plenty to mine from. Chanteuse Charlotte Savary’s performance was especially spectacular — in the pantheon of female voices in downtempo music, from Beth Gibbons with Portishead to Martina Topley Bird with Tricky and Emiliana Torrini and Lulu with Thievery Corporation, she more than held her own. Her lilting, beautiful voice lent itself perfectly to the atmospheric instrumentals. Her first song “Dragon Chasers” is sure to be one of the hits from “In The Mood For Life” with its melancholy vocal loop chorus and languid flow.

Rapper Mattic followed with a crowd-stirring performance of “Until Heaven Stops The Rain” and free styled effortlessly with the band and the turntables. Cellist Matthieu Detton and flutist Ludivine Issambourg’s performance was absolutely phenomenal — very unlike a typical set-up where these instruments support and weave in and out; they were an integral component of all the songs.

The flutist improvised and took center stage on many of the tracks, with this call-and-response pattern lending itself perfectly to the improvisation style of both hip-hop and turntablism. On “Fireflies,” when both Charlotte and Mattic took the stage, the seamless way in which all five musicians worked with and off each other showcased the sheer musical breadth and genre blending that is a hallmark of Wax Tailor’s work.

Toward the end of the show, Mattic offered a raucous take on “B Boys On Wax,” a truly appropriate homage to the MCing and turntablism culture that Wax Tailor clearly knows and contributes to. The band then performed two songs off “Tales Of The Forgotten Melodies” — “Que Sera” and the DJ Krush-esque “Out Dance.” The final song was the up-tempo new single “Say Yes.”

Wax Tailor has always shown a consummate ability to craft sonic landscapes, but what makes him unique is that, while he is an excellent turntablist, he never makes his work solely about that. While this new album incorporates more live instrumentation, it also doesn’t do so jarringly or take his style in an entirely new direction. “In The Mood For Life,” as its title suggests, is very much about a natural and subtle integration of the turntables and the instruments, the songs and the atmospherics, the slow and the fast, the melancholy and the upbeat.

Preview Story on Ivan Ives

I came up with the idea of covering Ivan Ives and pitched it to The Eagle. This is a *much* longer version of the article than the one that will be printed in The Eagle on October 8th. I like this longer version better, however.

“I am a phenomenon, never cheesy like Parmesan—believe me, you won’t catch me at Comic Con,” raps Ivan Ives on “Got It.” The Ives-directed video for it is a riotous, clever visual fest of pop culture references—think “The Office,” with various nerd lexicon figures like Stephen Hawking and Star Wars characters. The catchy song is Ivan’s take on the “this is who I am” song, in the vein of Eminem’s “My Name Is” and it showcases his skill. One thing becomes immediately obvious—Ivan Ives knows how to flow on a track. His staccato, nuanced delivery draws the listener into his music and shows just how hard he has worked at this—he is a prolific MC with many EP releases under his belt. To call him an “underground” rapper, while true, would not do justice to just how polished he sounds on his second full-length release, Iconoclast. Released on his own record label No Threshold Records, it boasts fifteen tracks, with none of those filler skits we all love to skip. Featuring guest appearances from renowned rappers such as Cappadonna from the Wu Tang Clan, 2Mex, Vast Aire, and O.C. from D.I.T.C., it is a breath of much-needed fresh air in the rap scene.
Musically, the beats, created by Ives’ longtime producer Fresh, aka The Hitman, are very innovative. They have an old-school feel, with soul song samples and superb scratching interspersed throughout. Nothing like the beepy, synthetic and often simplistic sound heard on so many other releases, they sound very organic and, well, jaunty. “Fresh (aka The Hitman) is a genius. His beats surpass a lot of other producers in the game right now. He has a throwback sound to his beats that other people try to replicate but don’t quite get there,” Ives says about his friend and collaborator.

Which brings us to the next point—Ivan Ives is originally Russian, now living in LA, yet his sound is very East Coast. “A lot of people actually hear my music and THINK I’m from the East. I did spend part of my childhood in Brooklyn after coming to the states from Russia, so I don’t know,” he explains. “The first album I ever got was Snoop Dogg – Doggystyle. At first, I was really into all the West Coast MCs (2Pac, Death Row cats, etc.), but afterwards I started listening to more East Coast rap: Biggie, Wu-Tang, all the D.I.T.C. cats. Big L is one of my favorite rappers of all time; I look up to him and aspire to be as good as he was one day.”
While Ives clearly has the lyrical chops to nerd it up on par with the other underground rappers, it is apparent that he does not have an interest in showing off by pontificating on politics or esoteric topics. Sure, his songs are peppered with various quirky references—on “Carpe Diem” he pokes fun of the stereotype that Russians are good at Tetris and chess and affirms his skill in both—and Ives clearly has a lot of cheeky cleverness to go around, don’t mistake him for a nerdcore rapper. “To quote myself on ‘Nice’ off of the LA Heat EP, ‘Some care more about lyrics, some more about flow, s*** man, I care more about both.’ There are a lot of underground emcees that have some interesting stuff to say, but unfortunately they can’t flow and so no one will care about it. If you don’t have your presentation down, it doesn’t matter what you’re trying to say. If you listen closely to my music, I have a lot to say about society and the struggle for survival, however, I embed my messages into more accessible formats and more catchy flows, because I want more people to enjoy my music and hear what I’m trying to say.” Ivan Ives clearly incorporates the element of good delivery, seen in mainstream hip hop, with the lyrical chops and brainier leanings of underground hip hop. “Most mainstream hip hop nowadays is trash. I remember back when mainstream hip hop was actually good (although that was mostly golden era hip hop stuff). I’m trying to bring back a fusion of the golden era sound with more modern influences, and that is possible, of course, because of The Hitman’s amazing skills behind the boards. But I hardly even listen to any underground rap that is coming out now, because unfortunately I think a lot of that is also shitty. It’s getting way too artsy. Too many kids that lack real-life experiences making up fantasy worlds filled with stories of fake struggling and fabricated tales of redemption.”
Ives’ Russian heritage also adds an innovative quality to the mix. He raps in Russian briefly on several of the tracks, showcasing his equal skill in both languages. “Victory” sounds like a Russian communist march, complete with the, “They’ll never defeat us,” Russian samples. So while Ivan Ives is not a “Russian rapper,” his interesting background certainly gives him rich lyrical fodder. As to whether he feels pigeon-holed by it, Ives responds
“I have fun with it. I’m obviously by no means an ‘ethnic’ artist…Honestly, I do feel that my background and my father’s struggle against the KGB with his art have influenced my music and the direction I am ultimately heading in, and it definitely does set me apart from other MCs.”

Iconoclast finds Ives exploring the trials and tribulations of an up-and-coming rapper. A lot of the tracks feature the hallmarks of hip hop—braggadocio and claims of one’s awesome skill. When he waxes on about his lyrical superiority, however, it’s always done in a smart, punny way and any “arrogance,” is tempered with humility. “I got wicked game, call me Chris Isaac” on “Lay Low” is one of the clever punch-lines often found on this album. On “Mad Game,” he raps
“I build a legacy founded on leprosy; an outcast outlasted everyone next to me. Bitter wrath for most rap critics, I rap for cynics and real heads still in it.” On “Life Is A Bitch,” he talks about the struggles of his career, “Working shitty jobs for cash; I can’t smile–we are out of laughs. With dreams as unattainable as mine the question usually asked is why. Why do I strive to be the best that ever was and make tracks for nerds and clever thugs,” and declares “I am not arrogant. I am damned.” “The Recipe,” another really standout track, is a riotous showcase of Ives’ love for hip hop, in the vein of “Got It.”

“Olivia Josephs” is one of two tracks that finds Ives addressing relationships—in other words, don’t look for him to be stereotypical rapper with songs “for the ladies.” It’s all business on this disc. On this track, he bids goodbye to Olivia Josephs, an amalgamation of his exes. He raps, “I hate your blond hair; I hate your plastic life. Tired of you and your friends playing ‘pass the knife.” The other track, “Revenge,” is the only real-deal linear narrative track on this album. Over a trippy, eerie non-beat of a beat, Ives narrates a grim story.

Iconoclast is the narrative of a workaholic. Love him or hate him, one Ivan Ives is one hard-working MC and this album reads like the diary of an underground rapper trying to make his name known. Devoid of the vapid cotton-candy stylings of bling bling rap, it is also refreshingly free of pontification and boring exercises in spouting off philosophy. Fifteen tracks of excellent beats and lyrics showcase his growth from a more abstract to a mass-appeal emcee. The tight verses and good hooks harken back to an older sound, thus making this record all the more enjoyable. With his forays into film—Ives has made some award-winning shorts and videos—and the growth of his No Threshold label, as well as various other collaborations, Ives clearly intends to keep his fans happy. His East Meets West tour hits the 9:30 Club on October 10th. Other acts on this bill are 2Mex and Vast Aire. You would be remiss to miss this great Russian hope, who is worth all the hype.