Cities Aviv
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Cities Aviv

Memphis, Tennessee, United States | SELF

Memphis, Tennessee, United States | SELF
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"Cities Aviv - Best Rap Songs Of The Year...So Far 7/1/11"

Cities Aviv, a Memphis rapper pretty much ignored by the blogosphere, called his debut album Digital Lows (available for free on Bandcamp). That phrase, "digital lows," sounds like a pop medical term for the feeling one gets during hour three of Tumblr page-downs or the 416th Facebook photo of an ex you've stared at instead of closing the laptop and going to sleep. Or maybe it's the overwhelming feeling that happens after you've thought long and hard about hip-hop and the Internet and tried to break down a hype machine that bounces from Odd Future (are they still cool?) to Kreayshawn, briefly pauses to celebrate the release of a Big Sean album, and then claims that someone named SpaceGhostPurrp is the dude about to blow.

Tuesday night, I got an email from a guy who claims the beat for Lil Wayne's "How To Love" was stolen from him. First of all, dude's beat was not jacked. Second, why would you wanna even claim that beat? That was one particular e-mail that definitely gave me the "digital lows." Not that this is specific to hip-hop. There's "Weinergate." And as I scour the gossip blogs like everyone else, I'm torn by what to click on next. Depressingly private photos of Amber Rose or something about Quentin Tarantino's choad?

The 16 tracks below add up to about an hour-long cure for the digital lows. The theme here is basically the best rap songs so far this year, but also the songs that have defied their contexts, and risen above any subgenre tags and the blog-rap din to stand on their own. Apologies to Curren$y, who has released two very solid albums this year -- Covert Coup and Weekend At Burnie's -- but is one of those increasingly rare, whole-enchilada type rappers whose appeal has little to do with an individual song.
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Cities Aviv, "Die Young"

This sure ain't fair to Cities Aviv, but think of Digital Lows as the anti-Goblin. Often just as brooding, ugly and, mean-spirited as Tyler, the Creator's sophomore solo effort, it's also about half as long, and never totally gives in to hipster nihilism. On "Die Young," producer Muted Drone loops Depeche Mode's "People Are People" so that it sounds like some noisy, no-wave, hip-hop hybrid, and Cities sounds a lot like Tyler when he tells listeners, "Fuck school, burn books, and drop out of college." But he doesn't stop there. He tells you what to do next: "And feel the strength of street knowledge." - SPIN Magazine


""Digital Lows" SYFFAL Review (8/10)"

Meet Mary. She's my friend. She's Asian. And, she's a woman (hence the pronoun choice). Mary also drives well. Extremely well. To the chagrin of many an opponent, she makes driving even the most stubborn stick shift look like child's play. As a rising amateur street racer with the best record in her division, she is a walking mindfuck. You see, owing to her slender yet voluptuous build—no man ever sees her as a seriously threatening competitor. They don't size her up correctly, there's no way she could be "that good." Little do they know, the jokes on them, as Mary takes pleasure in kicking their assess, brutally. She also takes pride in reversing that whole Asian women and cars stereotype.

It's highly unsettling when we, as humans, fail at properly pigeonholing others. This failure is why I had a lengthy internal debate when deciding whether it was even rationally possible to review Digital Lows, the first official release from Tennessee native Gavin Mays (neither to be confused with Willie Mays nor Marvin Gaye), better known as Cities Aviv. So, I decided eschew the customary acoustic synopsis, instead basing the meat of my review on the album's cover art.

It's fucking dope. And, it's actually what drew me to the album in the first place. I swear I'm not a shallow connoisseur, seriously. This was an exception.

Thanks to the mind of designer Drew Ryan, the cover is perfectly boner inducing, sending me straight from 6 to 12 in an instant. And, as an anonymous friend told me, also appears to be trip inducing. I wouldn't know anything about the latter though, lolz. Anyway, Cities and Drew Ryan borrow Chappelle's idea of using a pretty white girl and raise the bar a bit. Now it's only enticing if the white girl exposes her supple, tender breasts, all the while gesturing her hands gently down a pair of slightly undone britches. I'm unsure as to what she could be doing down there, but rather impressive visuals nonetheless.

Okay, that's enough with that, now on to the music. I guess it wasn't as meaty as I thought it'd be.

Aesthetics aside, Aviv's tunes match the allure of their seductive wrapping—stimulating, though in slightly different aspects. Half the appeal is just trying to figure out who the hell the group, which calls itself a band, but is apparently only composed of one, is, and how it (or they) appears (or doesn't) through the rigid prism of "genre." Still with me? Good. Such mysterious criss-crossings work to Cities Aviv's advantage. My initial listening experience felt like floating through an endless abyss of muted yellows and reds, muffled by dense fog and a menacing thunderstorm. You can't help but stand in awe of the flawlessly distorted sensory input. It's a little hip-hop, a tad disco, a smidgeon rock, and a bit blues. Cities epitomizes futuristic nostalgia.

Believe it or not, while listening to Cities, I veridically remembered a future event. Talk about mindfuckery.

Continuing: The album will take you on a journey, invoking emotions from utter joy to darkly hued despair, only to return back to elation. It's a wildly entertaining roller coaster. The matter-of-factly toned rapper, Mays, is a surfing hipster proudly rocks a crusty, yet oddly alluring 1970's pornstache that would make Harry Reems jealous—making genre instability all but inevitable. He describes it as "post-death," as quite a few tracks revolve around the "devil" and "hell" as central characters. Depicting both against a backdrop of superbly rich production makes it worthy of a listen from those ever so precious lobes of yours.

Maybe you guys can put a label on this Harry Houdini of genres, classification, and stereotypes. And, even if you can't, go he's got plenty more tastefully nude white girls to ogle at. No race car driving Asians though; not just yet, anyway. Grab the completely free treat right here! Visit Cities' Tumblr for a peek inside the head of Gavin Mayes. - SYFFAL


"Go Memphis - Aristst To Watch For 2011"

Cities Aviv

A relentlessly creative rapper with an unusual pedigree, Cities Aviv (aka Gavin Mays) started his career in local punk band Copwatch before birthing his unconventional hip-hop identity. Drawing on a wide range of sources for his samples -- everything from old soul to post-punk, hardcore to alt-pop -- Cities' sound is an inspired musical fusion, topped by a commanding lyrical flow. Next month, the Cordova-based Fat Sandwich label will release Cities' proper debut, a 7- inch called "Coastin,'" with a series of other projects and titles expected to follow throughout the year. - Go Memphis


""Digital Lows" Pitchfork Review (7.5) - June 23, 2011"

Cities Aviv begins "Fuckeverybodyhere" with a swaggering declaration: "I could say some chill shit, but fuck all that." Given the song's hazy production--Steely Dan's "Midnight Cruiser" hammered into jagged boom-bap-- the impulse to lapse into laconic stoner rap makes sense, but nothing plays out quite so predictably on Digital Lows.

And so, in a drunken RZA-like flow, the Memphis rapper narrates his heroic origin story ("Bluff City born with a mic in my palm, I came up out the womb spittin' in the rarest of form"), hilariously big-ups himself ("In this 8-bit world I'm Bowser"), and mockingly croons the song's shit-talk title. Even the usual hip-hop clichés are afforded specificity thanks to his expressive wit and precise determination not to use words in the same exact way as every other rapper. He describes the girls he's pulling in by joking, "as a youngin' jerkin' off I could never picture this," and refers to his haters as "voyeurs."

Dude's got personality. He's a conflicted, searching thinker, with an outsider/insider perspective that merges the personal and the political, and lashes-out against the street mentality that mocks his forward-thinking hip-hop. "Niggas say I dress white," he observes a little hurt, and retorts, "flow must be cocaine." He also makes a joke about "white bitches" whose "favorite band is Mr. Bungle," which is just really funny. A few years ago this would be derisively called "hipster rap," but that kind of categorical thinking has been pleasantly deconstructed by now.

Digital Lows also has a group of out-of-nowhere, brilliant producers (Muted Drone, RPLD GHOSTS, Danny Dee, and others) behind it, all of whom contribute imaginative but still traditionalist beats. "Black Box" gives Gil Scott-Heron's "Winter in America" a blunted beatmaker refix. "Die Young" loops the intro to Depeche Mode's "People Are People" and turns the new wave classic into a hybrid of Rammellzee's avant-rap and Southern fight-rap. Three 6 Mafia's subtle influence on this next-generation Memphis rapper always manifests itself in subtle, indirect ways like that. "A Beautiful Hell", "Doom x Gloom", and "sixsixsixes" invoke Three 6 shock rap at moments when Cities, usually thoughtful and witty, sounds at the end of his rope, far beyond "fuck it"-- so he lets loose with lines like, "we fuck broads on the cross and they gulp the semen."

For contrast, placed between "Doom x Gloom" and "sixsixsixes" is "Meet Me on Montrose (For Ex-Lovers Only)", a bittersweet love story based on a sample of "Oh Lori" by the Alessi Brothers, which is quite possibly the least "hard" song ever made. "Voyeurs" lobs goofy disses at fellow rappers ("In a city full of fake Rick Rosses/ I rock Cuban link chains with inverted crosses") and ends with a burst of digitized noise before giving way to hopeful album closer "Float On", a wizened freestyle over Blackbird Blackbird's cover of the Modest Mouse hit. Balance is important here, and the darkest moments of Digital Lows soon enough let up to highlight Cities Aviv's most winning quality: his mordant humanity.

— Brandon Soderberg, June 23, 2011 - Pitchfork Media


Discography

Digital Lows (2011) - Stream/Download on Bandcamp

Haus of The Rising Sun (2011) - Stream/Download on Bandcamp

Coastin (2011) - 7" Single available soon through Fat Sandwich Records

Photos

Bio

Cities Aviv is the sole creation of Gavin M. Hip-hop juxtaposed by the mind of a kid who never cared to enter rap. The sound can be described as abrasive while also ghostly as remnants of soul and electro are mashed into a muted wall of interference.