AZ rapper Mouse Powell releases studio album 'These Are The Good Times'
Tempe rapper and self-declared "hometown hero hopeful" Bill "Mouse" Powell dropped his year-long project “These Are The Good Times” on Tuesday.
The album's 10 songs, which are available for free download, dip low in tempo and mood before they dive through quicker, upbeat songs. "These Are The Good Times" is an album to drink to, but it maintains Powell's unavoidable down-to-earth manner.
“The music kind of sounds more patient than a normal hip-hop record,” said producer Andrew "The Ref" Johnson.
Powell, who grew up in Avondale, started rapping when he was 15 years old. Like Powell's previous albums, "These Are The Good Times" strays away from mainstream hip-hop, instead incorporating a more soulful influence and laid-back atmosphere.
“It has that whole 'get together' vibe,” said Alan "ILL AL" Taylor, who joined Powell to produce the rapper's previous album, "Where It's Cloudy."
“I think good hip-hop records do a good job of catching your attention when you want to listen," he said.
Powell featured artists on keys, trumpet, percussion and guitar on nearly every song of the album, working with local influences to create a more powerful, mature sound. "These Are The Good Times" breaks the bounds of the traditional hip-hop formula, but the end product is far from unorthodox.
Johnson said the artists were free to experiment with a basic framework when they came to the studio to record.
"It was almost like when they came in, it was a blank canvas, but I got to pick the size," Johnson said.
But the rapper agrees that the collaborations and aversion to too many samples benefited the album.
"Bringing in all the musicians and actually handcrafting everything ourselves really made it a little bit more of an involved task," Powell said.
For Johnson, really taking control of this album with Powell's leadership and collaboration was an experience that beats being confined to someone else's writing.
“It feels better to release music that just originates from your brain instead of starting somewhere else," Johnson said.
Of Powell's approach to "These Are The Good Times," Taylor said that Powell is just trying to find his own and "stake his flag," by claiming some portion of the scene with his identity.Here’s a go-to song list for several “These Are The Good Times,” must-listen tracks.
Track No. 1. “Heaven”: The Tempe-based rapper wastes no time establishing an honest dialogue with the listener on the album's opening track. "Heaven" performs excellently as a lounge act, progressing through a slow, dreamy antithesis to today's atypical raucous, in-your-face hip-hop. Danny Torgersen of Captain Squeegee drifts in on the trumpet, a testament to Powell's devotion to collaborating with the best local artists on the album, complete with lyrics as raw as the melodies. ("You know that kid on your block who should've been an astronaut, but'd rather spend his whole life on a beat? / Well that's me / I'm going in.")
Track No. 2. "Two Weeks": Underground Arizona hip-hop education begins at this song. For what Powell lacks in experience and age, he makes up with vigor and clever composition, sampling "Sultans of El Sur" by The Mercury Program and featuring Sean Lee of The VeraGroove on keys. "Two Weeks" gets in your face, but not in the way mainstream rap does.
Track No. 4. "Brass Monkey": An enthusiastic, melodic rendition of the Beastie Boys classic by the same name, "Brass Monkey" samples “Jeans” by Quadron. It's a worthy listen for fans of Drunken Immortals and Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra, for which percussionist Scott White plays.
Track No. 6. "Cliff Clavin": The album's ultimate drunken anthem arrives in the form of "Cliff Clavin," an organic, uplifting track. Like his summer song, “Holding Home (The AZ Anthem)," the sound is nostalgic, fun and honest. ("Tell the people that ask why I dropped out of school that there's kids out of state that wanna hear me rap.")
Track No. 8. "Good Times II": Featuring Jason DeVore of Authority Zero, Scott White on percussion and additional guitar by Kris Hill of Drunken Immortals, "Good Times II" is the song a group of musically inclined friends would improvise on a drunken Saturday night in a backyard. The sound isn't traditional hip-hop, but it's natural and catchy.
Thanks to Powell's backers on kickstarter.com, "These Are The Good Times" is available for free Tuesday.
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