Mouse Powell and The Ref: These Are The Good Times

With the advent of certain technologies, hip hop has become at-home-accessible for millions of young rappers. With the deluge of music I hear at YabYum, I am often left questioning. What makes one stand out above the rest? What pushes a person to go beyond the conventional boundaries of hip hop and create something new? These Are The Good Times, the new album from Mouse Powell and The Ref seek answers to these questions.

Bill “Mouse” Powell arrived on the scene in 2011 dropping his album Where It’s Cloudy with producer ILL AL. Since that time he’s been on a few tours, hosted the Blunt Club, released MegaMouse (an album with Mega Ran), and has built quite the following of AZ hip hop heads. Likewise, Andrew “The Ref” Johnson released his debut album in 2011 followed by his sophomore release Practice just a few months prior to These Are The Good Times. The Ref has worked with Mouse since 2012 recording, mixing, and engineering nearly everything Powell’s released. These Are The Good Times is a culmination for both artists, each one has grown musically in the process.

These Are The Good Times does not sound like your traditional rap record. Mouse has always favored an underground, kick-back party vibe in his music and this album is no exception. However, The Ref’s production is atypical. Bands such as the Mercury Program and Quadron are sampled and combined with some of the Valley’s best musicians playing actual instruments. Jason DeVore of Authority Zero, Sean Lee of the VeraGroove, Kristina Moore of Where are all the Buffalo?, Danny Torgerson of Captain Squeegee and Scott White of Drunken Immortals/Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra are just some of the many talented performers found on the record.

Album opener “Heaven” shows Mouse take a solid stand on what he expects with These Are The Good Times. “Two Weeks” allows the listener to glimpse, for even the briefest moment, the life of Mr. Powell behind the music. The boys then break it down on “Dancing In The Rain” which features both Andres Rodriguez of the VeraGroove & Carly Kastner.

Every time “Brass Monkey” begins, I forget its the seminal Beastie Boys track of the same name and instead get lost in this beautiful rendition with its funky guitar and swinging trumpet. “Tomorrow” features Kristina Moore as I’ve never heard her before. A lightly strummed beginning leads way to an orchestra atop chugging guitars, thunderous drums booming in the background. Kristina provides vocal “hooks” if you will for both this and the next song “DGTW,” which due to its eclectic instrumentation and hard-hitting beat that eventually drops, is currently my favorite track on the album.

The final third of These Are The Good Times begins with “Good Times II” featuring Jason DeVore. Truly a unique track, with the beat provided by a hand-drum and acoustic guitar, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to sing and dance along to this one. When closer “What A Trip” comes in with it’s bluesy keyboard progression and playing-in-the-rain-under-a-streetlamp trumpet, the listener is reminded of the seriousness at which Mouse Powell and The Ref approach their craft. “Since my first tour I don’t think I’ve been home,” Mouse declares.

Alas, not everything can go right with an album release every time. The first single from These Are The Good Times, “Cliff Clavin”, had to be removed just 2 days after the album release due to copyright issue with “Lovers’ Carvings” by Bibio, the track’s sample. We had reviewed “Cliff Clavin” in our October 28th edition of  5 Albums to Get Excited About and are saddened by it’s departure though the idea of a “Remix Contest” in order to bring the track back sounds like an excellent idea indeed.

If you’re looking a for hip hop record that steps well outside the traditional modes of rap, look no further than These Are The Good Times. An incredible release show has been scheduled for December 7th at the Red Owl with Mouse Powell and the VeraGroove performing These Are The Good Times in its entirety. Add to that the likes of Playboy Manbaby opening the show and you’ve got yourself one helluva’ evening! Click here to listen and get down with These Are The Good Times.

by Mark Anderson
Editorial Staff

%d bloggers like this: