Party & Bullsh*t: This Week in Nashville Hip-Hop [Rio, Chuck D, Gummy Soul]

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Calling it now: Good Morning Dreamer is the most ambitious hip-hop album to emerge from Nashville this year. It's also the most ambitious country record, dance record and soul record of the year. Rio's had this bad boy in the lab for years with dribs and drabs making it out to the Internet while he grew his beard out and buried his head between the speakers for months at a stretch. There were moments there where I worried about him — I've done the epic beard/epic project thing and I know some crazy vibes can get caught the ol' chin pubes. And, if I can be honest, I was a little wary of his single choices — it seemed like a nutty set of choices.

But all is fine! Rio's doing good! Hell, Rio's doing great. Good Morning Dreamer is a vocal record, and any genre tropes/detours are in service to the stacks on stacks of gorgeous, soulful vocals — it's like a soul-tronica Odessey & Oracle, where the singles are great but they don't really showcase the mastery going on deeper in the record. “So You Say” is beautiful — I'll put money on Deacon and Rayna weeping their way through it sooner or later — but it makes a hell of a lot more sense in between the piano ballad “For You to Me” and the roots-reggae dub stroll of “Hold Me Up.” There are sublime moments of zeitgeist-shifting studio nerdery like the acoustic-guitar-and-square-synth house of “Lost in the Lights” and the vocoder harmonies on “15 Minutes” that send shivers down your spine.

And the snare tones! A lot of what makes or breaks a hip-hop/pop/electronic/Slovenian grindcore record for me is the snare drum, and GMD has some wonderful, crispy, propulsive snares — it's the bedrock of good sound design and the glue that holds this sprawling, adventurous record together. Well, that and the vocals, of which there are many. Did I mention the vocals? Rio is one hell of a singer, and listening to his self-reflexive call-and-response is beguiling. The way the vocals weave in between synth and drums, piano and guitar, under raps and over bridges and then weaving back through yet more vocals — it's a sound to behold. It also makes it imperative that you click "play" again the second the album finishes. Also, does that piano on "No Pressure" sound like it came from a Martin Denny record? 'Cuz it would be awesome if it did.

And now we roll onto more partyin' and bullshittin' ...

* Whaddup 106 and Park, how you doin'? I heard you were bumpin the new Tabi Bonney track "TOHL (Time of Her Life)" produced by Nashville's very own Rio — that's a good look for you, keep it up.


* Don't believe the hype! Unless that hype happens to be in reference to how awesome this interview with Chuck D is! Filmed at "a record store on Record Store Day" — which is likely Grimey's, as Mista Chuck was there for the High Holyday '11 — but just posted this week, the interview is typical of the Public Enemy frontman: brilliant, hilarious, insightful. He quotes Sam Phillips, name-drops George Jones, explains that "it's only been Country Music City for about 50 years" and then proceeds to explain how PE got banned from Music City in the late '80s. It's pretty wonderful to hear Chuck speak with reverence for our city's musical heritage — well, it's pretty wonderful just to listen to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee speak, wherever, whenever. Hell, my wife and I had our first date at a Chuck D lecture, which might be the most rap-nerdy thing I've ever typed. Anyway, watch the damn video, believe the damn hype.

* If you're not down with Bizarre Tribe yet, I, uh ... as Flavor Flav famously said, "can't do nuthin' for ya, man."

Got something for me? Hit me up on Twitter or email music[at]nashvillescene[dot]com.

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