Nataliya Nikitenko steps into brilliance in debut single "Oil & Water"

Nataliya Nikitenko debuts elegantly with a single titled “Oil & Water” that shows off her vocal prowess, fluid through a vivid lead piano melody that trickles as she ascends and descends flawlessly. With rich harmonies and well-timed string instrument swells to adorn the debut track with simmering feelings of loss and realizations of acceptance, the composition is a melancholic standout. An accomplished songwriter, having penned tracks such as Little Mix’s “No More Sad Songs (ft. Machine Gun Kelly)” and “Heavy” by Anne-Marie, Nikitenko joins the ranks of artists such as LP who step out of the shadows and into their brilliance, a spotlight awaiting them that no other could take. In “Oil & Water,” Nataliya Nikitenko appreciates the end of something, watching as it separates: the process, and its sound, are something to behold; stream the new single below. - René Cobar


Celebrate Zose Hanukkah with Your Old Droog

On this, the last day of Hanukkah aka Zose Hanukkah, consider this provocative hypothesis: Hip Hop and Hanukkah are brothers from another mother. For one thing, both are tied to numerology. Hanukkah lasts eight days and nights--the number eight being a “number of completion” that symbolizes the “metaphysical world” in Judaism. Cut that number in half and you've got the fabled “four elements” of Hip Hop: DJing, MCing, B-Boying, and Graffiti Art. Plus both Hip Hop and Hanukkah incorporate an extra number “to grow on.” During Hanukkah there’s the ninth candle in the middle of the menorah--called the shamash--used to light the other candles as the holiday progresses. And in Hip Hop there’s the well-known trope of the “fifth element” variously said to be knowledge, beatboxing, basketball, fashion, or some other something. 

Also, both celebrate the warrior spirit. The Jewish holiday honors the Maccabees, the rebel warriors who took control of Judea, while Hip Hop celebrates verbal warriors who brandish liquid swords in street cyphers or Verzuz battles, and DJs who battle each other in parks, playgrounds, and turntablist competitions. Zooming out another level, hip hop celebrates the warriors who battle socio-economic oppression and white supremacy. 

Finally, Hip Hop is sometimes described as the art of making “something from nothing," and likewise, Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of a paltry supply of lamp oil somehow lasting eight days inside the newly retaken Temple of Jerusalem. So you see, practically the same thing! Let’s go ahead and declare “Hip Hanukkah” the portmanteau of the day and get Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the musical.

Which brings us to the real subject of this piece and the inspiration for the chin-stroking thesis above: the Brooklynite rapper of Jewish-Ukrainian ancestry known as Your Old Droog, who yesterday released the Hanukkah-dedicated single seen at the top of this piece. For five years-plus YOD has been making waves in the hip hop underground, a favorite of heads who recognize his formidable skills and appreciate his verbal acrobatics, encyclopedic references (forget about consulting Genius since YOD had all his lyrics removed from the site), clever punchlines, and grimy ‘90s-style beats. Collaborations with the likes of Danny Brown and Heems have only cemented YOD’s reputation. 

Often compared to such upper echelon verbalists as Nas and MF Doom, YOD achieved early notoriety when he first started posting tracks on SoundCloud minus any additional social media presence or photos or personal info of any kind. This quickly led to rumors that YOD was actually Nas recording under a pseudonym. After positively IDing himself in a 2014 New Yorker profile and subsequently selling out a show at Webster Hall, it was revealed that he was actually a heretofore unknown white dude from Coney Island. Your Old Droog had seemingly come out of nowhere and created “something out of nothing” right out of the box.

But in reality more than just “some white dude” as his last two records have made clear--concept albums focused, respectively, on his Jewish heritage and Eastern European ethnic ancestry. On the first day of Hanukkah, late in 2019, YOD dropped Jewelry. The third full-length released in an insanely prolific year, the album opens with a track called “Shamash” (the ninth menorah candle referenced above!) that opens with the sound of a matchbook being struck which transitions into a hazy, dubby beat with incantations over the top that all sounds either highly spiritual or like someone coming down from a latke binging session. 

[[Editor's note: A Jewish colleague informs us that this track "samples someone reciting the blessings that we say each night as we light the Chanukah candles." We advise caution to Deli readers looking to this publication for advice or instruction on religious practices of any kind. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming...]]

But soon you’re snapped back to lucidity with the track “Jew Tang” (Ain’t Nuthin’ to F*** With!) that with its buzzing, lumbering beat feels like nearly getting run over by a Mitzvah tank barreling down Eastern Parkway with (one time?) Hasidic reggae icon Matisyahu in the passenger seat. Here and elsewhere on the album YOD spits bars that slant-rhyme “Cash Rules...” with “Kashrut” (Jewish dietary standards!) and chrome mags with Cro-Mags (NYC hardcore legends!) and lots of other mind-expanding lyrical mashups besides. If there’s a better portrait of punk rockers and hip hoppers and multi-hued Brooklynites of all types existing together in all of NYC's true grit and glory I’d like to hear it.

if there one thing you can surely say about Your Old Droog is that you’ll never find him “writing the same thing over and over / like Bart Simpson in detention"--a charge he levels against wack rappers in “The Greatest To Ever Do It”--since on every project he takes on a new direction. And the recently-released Dump YOD: Krutoy Edition is no exception as YOD code-switches between English and Russian (his first language) on tracks named after locales such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. It's a bold assertion coming from someone who's been frequently misperceived in the past: “if you were my complexion and poor / they just thought you were Spanish.”

A sonic travelogue, Dump YOD is a trip in the truest sense with train whistles and barrel organs and mournful horns and hammered dulcimers and that’s all on the first couple of tracks. These sounds help to sketch the plight of a “legal alien” as described near the end of “Ukraine,” which opens with YOD thinking back on being “outsiders since day one / been there since way young / used to squirm in the seat / when teachers called out my name, son.” In an age of widespread Nativist zeal it’s a potent message for immigrants and children of immigrants--who are well aware that “the hardest thing to be is yourself.” (Jason Lee)



Cee Gee/Genecist vibe on "Proverbz and Video Gamez"

2020 has been a very bad year for a lot of things but not so for underground hip hop. Dig around in the digital mire for a while and you’ll probably come up with something pleasing. Case in point: last Friday night on Billy Jam’s “Put The Needle On The Record” radio show there was a track featured by the Buffalo-based duo of Cee Gee (he’s the DJ) and Genecist (he’s the rapper) that caught this blogger's ear.

The track is called “I Got You” and it starts with a simple keyboard figure that’s soon backed up by a tight MPC-style beat but get this during the whole intro you also hear Miss Piggy, or a convincing facsimile, dropping ad libs over the beat. Enter Genecist with a laid-back strutting flow that locks in with the loping rhythmic underpinning--you can hear the groove in the lyrical refrain alone: “told ‘em yeah I got chu”--and meanwhile Miss Piggy is still doing her thing but then before too long Genecist does an about face and starts spitting rapid fire triplets while praising his fans and the scene and his own skills (duh) and God Up Above before easing back into the opening groove. Rinse and repeat.

Compelling enough stuff to check out both artists. Turns out that Cee Gee, aka Cee Gee Incorporated, stays true to the latter moniker by releasing a steady stream of beat tapes, solo work and collaborations. This is backed up by his most recent Facebook post at the time of writing (yes I’m a social media stalker what of it?) that boasts “14 Beats In 4 Hours!!!” so here is a man with a serious work ethic who also knows how to create some undeniably ‘90s-style beats alongside the overall stark, slightly off-kilter feel that if you're into a certain Mr. Jay Dee you may be into this too. A few years back Cee Gee left computer-based beatmaking behind and acquired an Akai MPC so no wonder at the ‘90s vibe. For more of his flavor you can look up his collab with another Buffalonian, graphic artist and comic book creator Kevin Delgado aka Frigid Giant, together known as Green Giant.

Genecist likewise appears to be a busy guy lately. Known locally on the scene as a singer-rapper in 4 B-LO, a group specializing in sexytime R&B music, his solo work culminated in 2017’s <Genecist Project> collecting his output up to that point. After nearly retiring from the music-making game Genecist has come back strong with three new EP’s released this year and a fourth in the works (four EPs in one years sounds awfully familiar). The most recent two EPs, both released in October, are tag-team DJ & Producer collaborations: 20:20 with Roobxcube and Proverbz and Video Gamez with Cee Gee.

Before closing I’ve gotta mention at least one more track on the latter EP, the one directly before “I Got You” that's called “Sega Genecist.” No doubt you get the pun but the duo take it next level, building the track over the chirpy game-intro music to the old school arcade classic Galaga. One could easily see this sample fitting perfectly into a chiptune song, but here Cee Gee and Genecist take the goofy-sounding tune (for which I have a great affection to be fair) and alchemize it with a heavy beat and with fleet rapping and even some nice vocal harmonies, all the while weaving in references to Tekken, Street Fighter, and Dragon Ball in the lyrics, and damn if it doesn't make you wanna grab your joystick. It’s pretty mind-expanding stuff and I can’t help but notice that the two tracks discussed here and the one before it (“Follow the Leader” though not an Eric B. and Rakim cover) all clock in at precisely 4:20 in duration. Coincidence? You be the judge. (Jason Lee)


Aaron Taos takes us on a wild ride with new single "Amnesia"

What does a modern-day breakout star look like in 2020? Eccentric, not so rough around the edges, sprinkled with extra glitz and a glamorous sound that takes many risks: maybe something like indie-pop persona Aaron Taos would do. Taos’ confidence, commitment to style, and music like “Amnesia,” featuring Saiah, which is colored with piercing guitar solos, go-crazy rhythms, and a let’s-see-what-happens attitude, is the perfect combination of intrigue and fun for a deep dive. The music video for the new track is just as wild and provides a glimpse at the type of energized character that Taos presents, one perfect for the grit and glitz of Los Angeles. “Amnesia” is part of Taos’ deluxe edition of his debut album, Birthday Boy, reissue; stream the new song below to join the festivities. - René Cobar


Octonomy livestreams from Elsewhere 12.11.20

Octonomy is a Brooklyn-based sound artist whose work ranges from ambient-floating-in-the-clouds reveries (4•3•3•6) to glitchy-grimy-down-in-the-dirt noise sculptures (0) to vocal-based work combining ambient/noise elements with what I’m calling “interdimensional electropop” (Warhorse). It’s a heady mix that’ll get under your skin so head on over to the Elsewhere rooftop tonight via Twitch (note: the physical space is closed to the public for the winter) and get your mind and body right through the strange magic of electronically-generated sound waves and real-time virtual broadcasting. 

For a sneak preview you can check out the Octonomy live set below filmed in the halcyon days of the Summer of Covid. This performance was part of DJ Vox Sinistra’s weekly Strict Tempo series--likewise streaming on Twitch and still going strong--a showcase that originated at Seattle’s Mercury@Machinewerks late last year but which now features a cavalcade of DJs and live acts transmitting from locales across the globe every Thursday night starting at 7PST/10EST. Since the plague hit it’s been this writer’s weekly goto fix for electro-punk, coldwave/darkwave/minimal wave, cybergoth, acid and industrial, dark techno, synth pop and synthwave, EBM, and "all things cold, dark and wave-y" with due attention given to cool visuals and S&M-derived fashions.

In the meantime look out for new music coming soon from Octonomy on Faktor Records. And also on the Elsewhere bill you'll get some bonus Khadija with proceeds going to the important work of the National Bail Out collective--a “Black-led and Black-centered collective” working to “end systems of pretrial detention and ultimately mass incarceration.”
(Jason Lee) (photo credit: Chthonic Streams)