Sikes and the New Violence

I don’t like to write about things I don’t know about. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time I don’t think at any point  I mention rap or hip hop music. (Hey! Stop moving that mouse near that X) I wouldn’t be attempting to write about an album if I didn’t think it was that good and worth spreading the word about it. There’s so much music out there, a negative review doesn’t help anyone. Let’s share things that are worth talking about, rather than those that we don’t like in the first place.

I started listening to the Start the Beat Podcast when Chris Stowe posted that he was interviewed for it. I don’t know how Chris keeps popping up in this blog (Chris, if I ever see a dime from this, I’ll toss it to ya). The interview was good, but I was more interested in the man doing the interview. Brian Howe aka, Sikes, is a Pittsburgh native. He also seems to be a jack of all trades. He sings, raps, draws, interviews. The man does it all. I started listening to his podcast from episode one after listening to the one with Chris. I always try to start things at the beginning. You can’t really understand something or someone until you find about their roots. Turns out we share a lot of common interests and feelings on things. I’m twenty something episodes into his podcast, and eventually will catch up to present day. I’ve got a couple hour flight next week so that’ll help.

Sikes recently released an album titled, “I’ve Seen Better”. I’m not familiar with his other work, nor indie hip hop as a whole, but figured out why not? My experience with hip hop is the same way I view art. I don’t know what I like, but I know it when I see/hear it. Because of this I don’t invest a lot of time into searching out more of it because I don’t know where to start. Sikes backs up on his love of all different kinds of music on this album. The word fresh keeps coming to me when I try and describe this album. It sounds new. So many artists try to sound like someone else. Whether it’s paying homage, straight ripping off, or honestly wearing your influences on your sleeve. It’s refreshing to hear something that stands all on it’s own.

From my understanding this is his first album with a full backing band. I think this is what makes the album stand apart from his counterparts. There’s so much he’s able to do with the combination of live instruments and electronic manipulation. There’s so many nuisances and sounds happening that keep it interesting.

His lyrics speak about being in your 20s and generally unhappy when observing the things around you. Yeah…I can relate to that.

” watching all my grown friends go and get their lives right
fucking married having babies with some steady 9 to 5
while i’m still on my check to check – barely making rent
because before i get paid you know that shit’s already spent
always biting off way more than i can chew
no worries wash it down with a couple of brews
yeah, i used to not drink but now i kinda do
it’s been a couple years now – that shit’s old news
so will i ever grow up? i’m thinking not ever
spend all my money on pizza and vinyl – whats better
this downward spiral ain’t really that bad
cuz if i didn’t have problems tell me what would i have? ”
– “Low Expectations”

Maybe it’s because I can relate to most of these songs that I enjoy it so much. But I think it’s the delivery of these ideas that keeps me coming back. Most of the hip hop I’ve listened to either I can’t relate to or I find musically uninteresting. Just a personal preference. There’s some good beats, quirky electronic bits, punk attitude, and a good honest dude behind the mic telling it how it is.

I think the fact that Sikes does pretty much everything on his own when it comes to his work is honorable. It’s that respect that makes me want to support him. This may be out of your wheelhouse, but I thought it was out of mine too. Give it a listen.

Favorite tracks: Low Expectations, Solitaire, Just Swim

If the music’s not your thing, his podcast, Start the Beat, is a good listen. He interviews musicians and friends from in and around Pittsburgh. While it does get kind of niche at some spots, I don’t think you need to be from the area to enjoy it. I have not known any of the guests on it and still enjoyed each episode simply based on the conversation.

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