Best Solo Rap Artist
click to enlarge
Jamall Bufford wears a crown because he’s a king. “Yes, I am the king. But we’re all kings and queens,” Bufford says. “Everyone should believe they’re kings and queens without making anyone feel like they’re less worthy of the crown than you. That’s kinda what the song 'The Kingdom' was about on Pure. Unless it’s a terrible rapper; in that case, they need to be belittled.”
Michigan is home to rap royalty, from Detroit to Pontiac and beyond: Eminem, Royce Da 5’9”, Phat Kat, Paradime, Black Milk, Dilla, Proof, Guilty Simpson, One.Be.Lo, etc. There are hot newcomers burning up the streets, like K Deezy, or those making “intelligent hip-hop,” like Buff1, blazing the booth with earnest bars of fury. The Ann Arbor hip-hop scene is purely an extension of Detroit as a whole; with Buff1 and his Athletic Mic League/Lab Techs crew further adding credibility to a rap scene that is busting at the seams. So, with Buff1 being declared the Best Solo Rap Artist in Detroit, don’t get the geography twisted, he’s as much a part of the city as anyone else. “I feel Detroit artists make the best music, period,” Buff says. “And to be from Ann Arbor, it makes it extra special. I know all of the artists from The D know and respect me and the Athletic Mic League/Lab Techs for what we do and who we are, and we’ve been putting in work in The D for years to earn that respect."
In a year when Black Milk was graduated to the upper echelon by being named Real Detroit’s Artist of The Year, Phat Kat cemented his status as a Detroit rap legend with Carte Blanche and Royce Da 5’9” made one hell of a comeback with the national spotlight on the verge of being shined back on him, Buff1 released Pure, a magnificent, feel-good hip-hop album stockpiled with expert rhyming and soulful, head-bobbing songs backed with a diverse range of slamming beats. The five-star RDW-rated album was a local smash and also made Buff1 a Myspace featured artist. Arranged like a delicious appetizer tray at a cocktail party thrown inside The Shelter, Pure flirted with the golden age of hip-hop with Slick Rick storytelling tracks like “Pretty Baby,” dripped with swagger like Nas in ’96 with “Slick,” rocked posse cuts like The Juice Crew meets Wu-Tang with local luminaries such as Elzhi, Guilty Simpson and One.Be.Lo and made a heartfelt emo-rap track better than Kanye West ever could on “For U.”
Aside from Pure, Buff did the usual guest rap steez: last fall, he toured Europe with Slum Village and went on a 16 city U.S. tour with Now On, Othello and DJ Manwell. “Big Thangs” are on the horizon for ’08 as well, as Buff is penning lyrics for his follow-up album, There’s Only One (dropping in May), working on a new AML album, playing SXSW in March and then hitting the road in the States and Europe in the late summer and early fall.
Local hip-hop is in a renaissance era and Buff1 is one of many making a contribution to something legendary and special. Years from now, one wonders how he’ll describe it.“I would say it was historical. No other area is producing the amount of talented artists that Michigan is right now, in my opinion. But at the level we’re doing it, it’s amazing how many dope cats there are from here. Black, Guilty, El, T3, Baatin, Mr. Porter, Eminem, One.Be.Lo, Finale, Invincible, Waajeed, AML/Lab Techs, Magestik Legend, Phat Kat, Ta’Raach, Nick Speed, Octane, Illite, Royce, Da Phear, Now On, HouseShoes, Miz Korona, Marv Won, Karriem Riggins, Fat Ray, Young RJ ... too many to name. And that’s just a handful, AND that’s just hip-hop.” | RDW
More info: myspace.com/buff1der
Best Band To Get Signed To A Major Label
It’s no coincidence that Tally Hall were formerly on Quack! Media, as talent in our fair state only breeds more talent, but it was with the warmest of wishes that Quack! said goodbye to Tally Hall as they moved into a larger house — Atlantic Records. Their latest record (which we can actually credit Quack! for), Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum, is an indie-pop gem and all of Detroit seemingly can’t wait to hear what these guys do with Atlantic. Whatever they end up doing in the near future, we can rest assured that they will continue to have their true home in their heart as their grounds of proverbial stomping continue to act as muse for their work.
“Marvin's was in our backyard throughtour life, it's hard to imagine doing anything artistic without grounding it in reality and it seems that everything we write is based on experieces from our hometown,” said Tally Hall's Joe Hawley.
Also integral in the sound that Tally Hall produces are the myriad of bands from which they draw influence. Don’t be mistaken, Tally Hall is not a band that one would ever label as derivative, but there are, without a doubt, modes of melody that can strike any listener as strangely familiar, yet never obvious.
If you dig on bands like Queen, The Beatles and The Cars then you’ll find yourself getting down on Tally Hall, who also blend modern pop sensibility into their sound, a sound that can quickly find itself danceable in any venue.
For a band that formed only six years ago, it’s apparent that Tally Hall have incredible chemistry — you can hear it in their harmonies, you can feel it in their changes, you can see it on stage. With Atlantic Records we’re going to see Tally Hall do the impossible: take their game to the next level — no pressure, boys, really. But seriously, with label-mates like Bjork, Bloc Party, Death Cab For Cutie, Metallica and Lupe Fiasco they have risen to the world’s stage and it’s kind of a now or never situation. Breathe easy, they can do it. Detroit knows it, Ann Arbor definitely knows it and some smart folks at Atlantic know it, too.
“A lot of indie bands in our position might get cynical, but Atlantic's been nothing but helpful. Through the resources at Atlantic, we've been able to realize what we initially intended ... but it's been a little bit surreal and hard to quantify at this point,” said Hawley.
And though Tally Hall is super-excited to get to SXSW after their West coast swing to catch up with locals like The Silent Years, they're diggin' sharing their label with the likes of Kid Rock and their fave label-mate, Biggie Smalls. Hawley added, "it's just an honor to be on the same label as Gnarls Barkley 'cuz they're just cool," Tally Hall is more than capable of doing a cannonball in the big leagues — way to go, gents! | RDW
More info: Myspace.com/tallyhall
Best Punk Band
Oh, punk ...
You’ve become so conceited that you only want to rehash the last 30 years of your life. You’re like some sort of three chord rip-off machine. Real Detroit Weekly would like to introduce you to the band that will now destroy you: Terrible Twos.
You can call them punk, they call themselves punk, but Terrible Twos are the very thing that the genre has needed since about 1994. That being the fact that they’re ... not punk. Well, not punk in the traditional sense anyway. Gone are the bad haircuts, “in” are the ironic mustaches and “out” are the conventional A-D-E chord progressions. Formed post-high school, The Twos sought to start a band to kill the bored days of the non-school variety.
“We all smoked a lot of pot and did nothing with our lives so we decided to start a band,” Terrible Twos guitarist/vocalist Chris Campbell says. “I always tried to start a band in high school, but it just never really went anywhere.” That is, until he formed The Twos with fellow founding bandmates John Aho, Jonathan Arthur, Jeffrey Jordan and Danny Bing. Aho would eventually end up moving to Chicago as Craig Brown would step in and take over bass playing and co-vocal duties.
Instead of playing shows on a shambled sound, The Twos took time to figure out what exactly they wanted to do with their music. “It’s changed a lot since the beginning. I didn’t even know how to put strings on my guitar,” Campbell says. “I think it came together when Dan joined. We were more comfortable when he joined because he brought more color.”
Cutting their teeth while sharing the stage with The Clone Defects and The Piranhas, the boys found themselves gravitating to unconventional music. “I just didn’t want togo to shows and see my dad there,” Chris says. “There are a lot of bands that say they are going to save punk rock. That’s a meaningless statement to me because you should want to destroy it.” With Tyvek, The Frustrations and Fontana, The Twos redefined how Detroit approaches punk rock. This isn't 1977 anymore.
Having roared into the new year, Terrible Twos are firing on all cylinders. They recently released their self-titled debut and are receiving heaps of buzz in and out of The D. “Three out of five of us don’t have jobs,” Chris says on the band's future. “Our personal lives are kind of fucked ... We just don’t know what else to do.”
Committed to the cause, Terrible Twos are going all in with their band, ready to tear down the punk preconditions ... hoping it takes them somewhere. It looks like it already has. | RDW
More info: myspace.com/terribletwos
Best Funk Band
If you want to call ‘em “the best electro-soul-house band,” as Lisa B. from Woodbridge did, that’s fine with us, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that when you want consistently funky music, the kind you can’t help but shake your ass to, Exchange Bureau is Detroit’s go-to group. Drawing on a variety of funky influences from Detroit and beyond, EB have made their presence in Detroit quite concrete.
The Real Best of Detroit 2008
Tones of Home
Best Band: The Silent Years
At this time last year, The Silent Years found themselves Real Detroit Weekly’s winner in the Best Pop Band category. A lot has changed since then. The Silent Years went through some lineup changes, yet somehow didn’t skip a beat. They released their self-titled record at the tail end of '06 to much acclaim (Spin, Pitchfork, etc.) and continued to tour around the country, making a successful trip to Europe as well. The talent that each member of the group (in any of its incarnations) brings to the table is both precise in musicianship and unrelenting in energy, making The Silent Years Detroit's definitive Best Band.
Best Local Record Label: Quack! Media/ Suburban Sprawl Music
When Quack! and SSM, two of the many amazing Westside record labels (i.e. Ghostly Intl. and Quite Scientific) recently merged, they knowingly united a list of nearly unmatched talent. Al McWilliams’ Quack! Media and Livonia-based Suburban Sprawl Music, headed by Zach Curd and Adam Kempa, made their Voltron-esque merger in December and, suddenly, their arsenal of bands became a force the world had to reckon with. With bands like The Hard Lessons, Great Lakes Myth Society, Javelins, Childbite and The Pop Project, this united front of indie-rock-pop proves themselves a juggernaut of sonic proportions.
Best Underrated Band: The Great Fiction
How does a band who had a song on the soundtrack of an internationally released film, has a documentary being filmed about them and produces recordings on par with most anything Nigel Goodrich puts out, still fly under the radar? We have no idea, and evidently our readers don't either, as The Great Fiction are taking home the prize as the band everyone should know about, but somehow doesn't.
Best Solo Artist: Deastro
Until recently, Randolph Chabot wasn’t accompanied by newly recruited drummer Aaron Quillen. Flying solo, Chabot played his heart out at countless gigs and released an amazing amount of music (he practically uploads a new song to his Myspace every week). The Young Planets/Time The Teenage Twister, the synthesized wet dream bursting at the seams with addictive jingles that have made plenty of Detroiters spazz out, is still going strong in ’08 — new music on the way.
Best Pop Act: Mason Proper
By the time Mason Proper’s debut, There is a Moth in Your Chest, was released last year, the Ypsilanti band had changed names a few times and garnered a gushing local following. Whatever MP call themselves (band name or genre classification), they’ve penned some of the most accessible rock songs in recent memory, mastering a range of styles from Thunderbirds Are Now! to The New Pornographers to Death Cab For Cutie.
Best Live Show: The Hard Lessons
There are two things you can always expect at a THL show: presence and sweat, in that order. Our readers love their shows — many of you out there dare not miss even one. What will Augie do next? What dress will Ko Ko be wearing? How many times will The Anvil unleash his “shock and awe” back-beat? Take a moment at a THL show to observe the several smiles smacked on the faces of their fans, it’s like rock ’n’ roll group therapy! If there were a front man award, I’m sure it’d go to you, Augie.
Best Hip-Hop Group/Collective: United States of Mind
These guys were quietly building their rep over the last year-and-a-half, but in the summer of ’07, USM stepped-up their game and began making waves on all sides of town. With an incredible collection of producers, MCs and DJs, USM continues to stun audiences with their energetic live show while impressing critics with their recordings, like MC D. Allie’s stellar '07 release, The Cooperative. Look for some big moves from this collective of conscientious minds in the coming year.
Best Electronic Artist: Matthew Dear
Since its release in mid-2007, Dear’s Asa Breed record has revealed itself to be recognized as infectiously brilliant the world over, and more than that, as one Real Detroit voter perfectly stated on their ballot, ”Matthew Dear proved himself to be a true innovator in electronic music this year.” We couldn’t agree any more; this Ghostly Intl. artist will be a contender in this category for years to come. Whether it be as Audion, Jabberjaw, False or his live show featuring Matthew Dear’s Big Hands, this electro-aficionado continues to keep people wanting more.
Best Club DJ: DJ Godfather
DJ Godfather is a made man, therefore he automatically earns Detroit’s respect as ghettotech’s supreme ruler. He’s been killin’ it for some 15 years, playing around the globe, amassing a staggering catalog and remaining on the cutting edge, releasing the first ever digital scratch series using Scratch LIVE technology last year with For The Freaks. Brian Jeffries is one of the most gifted DJs alive, and his ability to continually make smash songs like “Crank Dat” even more energetic and danceable is a testament to his skills. If DJ Godfather’s listed on any club night in Detroit, you know the booth is ablaze!
Best Folk Artist/Group: Blanche
The Miller gang are not only the best dressed musical bunch in Detroit, but they’ve consistently churned out charming country-tinged rock that stands out like a shining star in the middle of Motown. Their latest album, Little Amber Bottles, is packed with gems like the barn house burner “I Can’t Sit Down” and the urban cowboy anthem “What This Town Needs.” Their howling thrush of pedal steel, buckling banjo and spooky “bail of hay blowing past Woodward at 2 a.m.” vocals deliver a distinct listening experience that is romantically timeless and harrowing.
Best Jazz Band/Artist: Hot Club of Detroit
There are innumerable subsets of jazz music, all of which are well-represented in Detroit, but when it comes to being the standout best, Real D readers pointed to Hot Club en masse. Their French gypsy jazz style can be both fabulously frantic and incredulously romantic. For a taste of what these guys are all about, one view of their “Swing One,” music video is all you need, but their live shows are what will lead to unashamed addiction.
Best Blues Artist: Bettye Lavette
The work that this Detroit Diva of blues 'n' soul puts into each and every song, whether on recording or the stage, is undeniably awe-inspiring. “Bettye’s been around for quite awhile, this woman has paid her dues to the blues and it’s great to finally see her on top,” wrote voter Kevin W. of Hamtramck. Her recently released record on Anti-, The Scene Of The Crime, has made some big splashes across the world and Detroit couldn’t be more proud.
Best Garage Rock Band: The Hentchmen
All hail Hentch, the band synonymous with Detroit garage rock (there’s that other band too, yeah, um, White something?). Fifteen years strong, they boast countless classic tunes and live shows — this trio’s barrage of smashing drums, shattering guitar riffage and those badass organ/synthesizer runs have helped to lay down the blueprint for scores of 313 children to come. Last year, kids got a history lesson when Hentch Forth Five was reissued — all we need next is some new Hentch!
Best Hardcore/Metal Band: The Bill Bondsmen
In a scene that has seen something of a revitalization and makeover in 2007, The Bill Bondsmen still reign supreme in the hardcore punk scene. Ruling their roost for the second year in a row, the band combines the intensity of Bill Bonds, a badass bail bondsman and the Bad Brains all into one musical entity. Bow down to the kings of hardcore punk rock 'n' roll.
Best House Band: The Reefermen
When you know The Reefermen are playing, whether it be at Fifth Avenue Billiards in Royal Oak or any of our other local bars and festivals, you can be sure that you are in for rock ‘n’ roll at its finest. Who else can seamlessly move from Michael Jackson to Led Zeppelin to Stevie Wonder to Jimi Hendrix only to funk you one more time with their killer rendition of Sly and the Family Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay?“ Keep on rockin', Reefermen, Detroit loves you.
Best Cover Band: The Mega 80’s
Here’s a band that truly gets the entertainment side of a rock show, but they don’t compromise one iota of musicanship. With costume changes and crazy stage presence, The M-80’s are fan favorites. “When me and my friends want to do a girls-night-out, we always go to their show,” wrote one RDW reader. These guys make The Magic Bag their home every weekend, so there’s no excuse not to see ‘em. Trust us, you’ve never seen a cover band ‘til you’ve seen the Mega 80’s!
© Copyright by RealDetroitWeekly.com