Monday, January 23, 2012

Gangrene - Vodka & Ayahuasca


01. 01:09 Intro (The Mixings)
02. Gladiator Music Ft. Kool G Rap
03. Flame Throwers
04. Drink It Up Ft. Roc Marciano
05. Auralac Bags
06. Vodka & Ayahuasca
07. Dump Truck Ft. Prodigy
08. Due Work
09. Odds Cracked
10. Top Instructors
11. Dark Shades Ft. Evidence & Roc C
12. The Groove
13. Livers For Sale
14. Outro (The Downsides)

*Review pending*

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Black Star - You Already Knew


Damn, I feel stupid for missing this. My apologies to Yaasin Bey & his partner in crime.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Roots - Undun


1. Dun (Skit)
2. Sleep (4/5)
3. Make My f. Big K.R.I.T. (4.5/5)
4. One Time f. Phonte & Dice Raw (5/5)
5. Kool On f. P.O.R.N. & Truck North (4.5/5)
6. The Other Side (Feat. Bilal & P.O.R.N.) (4.5/5)
7. Stomp f. P.O.R.N. (4.25/5)
8. Lighthouse f. Dice Raw (4.75/5)
9. I Remember (4.5/5)
10. Tip The Scale (4.25/5)
11. Redford (For Yia Yia & Pappou) (11-14 all series of skits)
12. Possibility
13. Will To Power
14. Finality

There was a period of time where the best hip-hop band was in a period of decline. People, including myself, wrote them off as another struggling artists attempting to grasp onto one final shred of relevance in a society more concerned with LMFAO and posting rather unsavory videos to WorldStarHipHop. That's really what I felt HIGO was gonna be. But, I was proven very very wrong, and it became one of my favorites of 2010. Undun has the same effect on me. It's subtle, yet extremely powerful and leaves you feeling invigorated. It follows the same flowing, organic style that is slightly less focused on their famed live instrumentation seen in HIGO. According to the group, its concept followed the story and life of Redford Stephens - a 25-year-old fictional character that succumbed to the perils of the hood, as he looked back on his life. It's a different concept, especially for hip-hop, and they should be commended for innovating in a period where hip-hop has become somewhat stagnant. However, same with HIGO, the main selling point is how the music feels - how everything connects into one flowing masterful symphony. It's nice to listen to a Roots album more than once and understand each track deeper in terms of the whole concept after each rotation. In fact, this may be the most well-rounded Roots album of the decade.

Sample Tracks

"Make My"



"The OtherSide"



"Tip The Scale"



Beats & Production: 9/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 9/10

Originality & Creativity: 9.5/10

Overall Grade: 92%

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Monday, October 10, 2011

J-Live - S.P.T.A. (Said Person of That Ability)


1. As I Start (Intro/Skit)
2. From Scratch (4.5) - A more boom-bap version of J-Live. Nice.
3. The Authentic (4.25) - Keeps production in check. Nice to see more interesting production from J-Live. Love the outro, but the single should have made the album.
4. Watch Sun Watch (feat. YC The Cynic) (3.75) - Decent song marred by a mediorce hook.
5. How I Feel Pt. 3 (4) - Nice beat; lyrics somewhat forgettable.
6. The Me And You (feat. Anneice Cousin) (4) - Feels like the grown-man version (read: more R&B-ish) of "The 3rd"
7. No Time To Waste (4.25) - Nice track, but...octopus porn?...
8. Pronounced Spitta (4.75) - Near-perfect J-Live battle track.
9. Life Comes In Threes (feat Rasheeda Ali) (5) - A good instrumental on a modern album? Wha?
10. Great Expectations (3.75) - Kind of a departure from the rest of the album. Not sure if it's good or not, though.
11. Poetry In Ertia (feat. John Robinson and Marq Spekt) (4.75) - Solid beat, solid rhymes, and I love me some John Robinson.
12. Home Or Away Remix (4) - A nice track to begin rounding out the album.
13. Half A Glass (feat. Lyric Jones) (4.5) - Love the beat. Nice contemplative track.

J-Live is one to envy in the hip-hop world. After being fucked over by the industry, he's always kept himself true, always staying focused on crafting his next masterpiece. Whereas previous J-Live albums have been a bit of a drag in terms of production, S.P.T.A. shines in that department. I'm used to J-Live albums being laden with intricate lines yet sparse production, but the production here is borderline excellent - it really adds live to tracks like "Start from Scratch" (a great intro track, by the way). And it's not all produced by J-Live, either, so the cohesion the album shows in production is even more surprising. It's great to hear an artist who grew up and made music in the second golden era come back and instead of just complaining about the state of hip-hop, actually craft something that intelligently pays tribute while keeping a look at the future. There's evidence all throughout the album. The little Pete Rock-like instros at the end are like the icing on the cake after a great boom-bap track. It's a return to no-nonsense hip-hop crafted by an intelligent artist who has come back with his most focused and cohesive album to date.

Sample Tracks

"From Scratch"


"Pronounced Spitta"


"Half a Glass"


Beats & Production: 9/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 9/10

Originality & Creativity: 9/10

Overall: 91%

Download

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

J. Cole - Cole World: The Sideline Story


01. Intro (skit)
02. Dollar and a Dream III (4.25) - Good way to start off album; high-energy
03. Can’t Get Enough (Feat. Trey Songz) (3.5) - Tired concept of J. Cole joints
04. Lights Please (4.5) - Old, but one of J. Cole's best
05. Interlude
06. Sideline Story (4.5) - One of the best, though somewhat unremarkable
07. Mr. Nice Watch (Feat. Jay-z) (3) - Too pop-inspired for a song that's not the lead single
08. Cole World (3.5) - Throughly unremarkable; average
09. In The Morning (feat. Drake) (3.5) - Getting old...
10. Lost Ones (4.25) - Storytelling with J. Cole always takes the same route...
11. Nobody’s Perfect (Feat. Missy Elliot) (3) - I thought Missy Elliot was gone. Still wish she was.
12. Never Told (Prod. by No I.D.) (4)
13. Rise and Shine (4) - Songs begin to run on and meld into one. Just like previous J. Cole works.
14. God’s Gift (4.25) - Well-needed high-energy track near the end
15. Breakdown (4) - Good, but the storytelling is getting old. Just reusing concepts at this point. Album could have been more concise, more interesting.
16. Cheer Up (3.5) - Has little substance for an end track
**Bonus Tracks**
17. Nothing Lasts Forever (4) - Different style for a J. Cole track - in a good way
18. Work Out (3) - Not much to say.
19. Daddy's Little Girl (3.5)

So to answer the statement I posted before, no, this does not fully live up to the hype. J. Cole's hyped himself and this album up for too many years for this to be as borderline as it is. It just feels like another one of his mixtapes, really. They start off strong, and end pretty weak and boring, because he reuses concepts so often it's hard to pay attention. When every other track is either about sex or a story, you need some other concept to follow. That's J. Cole's main weakness, and after a while, it just makes him boring to listen to. There are numerous standout tracks, like "Sideline Story" and "Lost Ones", but it's mixed in with so many borderline mediocre tracks that it's hard to want to listen to the album cover-to-cover multiple times. It's like everything he does is the exact same again and again. J. Cole needs to evolve as an artist, quickly.

Sample Tracks

"Dollar & A Dream III"



"Sideline Story"



"Breakdown"



Beats & Production: 8.5/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 8/10

Originality & Creativity: 6/10

Overall: 75/100

Download

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Track of the Day: Tupac - Changes



I was never a huge fan of Tupac nor Biggie. Still not. But this is one of my favorite tracks from him. It'll be amazing the amount of reverence Tupac will get decades later. 15 years ago, RIP.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Oddisee - Rock Creek Park


01. Still Doing It (feat. yU) (5)
02. Skipping Rocks (5)
03. The Carter Barron (5)
04. Scenic Route To You (4)
05. All Along The River (4)
06. Uptown Cabaret (4.5)
07. Beach Dr. (4.25)
08. Clara Barton (4)
09. Mattered Much (5)
10. Closed After Dark (5)

It's rare to find geniunely good instrumentals nowadays. In the Golden Era, they were interesting to listen to for nostalgia or because you felt hooked to the song, and the instrumental was an extension of those feelings you had. With everything computerized, it becomes harder to feel a natural inclination to a particular sound. Oddisee never fails to disappoint, though (seriously, has he *ever* released a bad track?) - he shines where others simply can't.

Instrumentals are most entertaining today when they're sensual, multi-layered creations from someone who has a genuine love for what they do. Oddisee's done this for a long time, and this shows no better than in this album. Add in a few chopped-up soul samples and a quick verse from yU and you've got that feeling of nostalgia that hooks you into each beat - long after the track finishes playing.

Sample Tracks

"The Carter Barron"



"Beach Drive"



"Closed After Dark"



Beats & Production: 10/10

Originality & Creativity: 9.5/10

Overall: 97/100

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kendrick Lamar - Section.80


1. Fuck Your Ethnicity [prod. by THC] (4.25)
2. Hol’ Up [prod. by Sounwave] (4.5)
3. A.D.H.D [prod. by Sounwave] (4.75)
4. No Makeup (Her Vice) ft Colin Munroe [prod. by Sounwave] (4.5)
5. Tammy’s Song (Her Evils) [prod. by THC] (4.75)
6. Chapter Six [prod. by Tommy Black] (4/Skit)
7. Ronald Reagan Era (His Evils) [prod. by Tae Beast] (4.75)
8. Poe Mans Dreams (His Vice) ft GLC [prod. by Willie B] (4)
9. The Spiteful Chant ft Schoolboy Q [prod. by Sounwave & Dave Free] (3.5)
10. Chapter Ten [prod. by THC] (4.25/Skit)
11. Keishas Song (Her Pain) ft Astro Bot [prod. by Tae Beast] (5)
12. Rigamortis [prod. by Willie B] (4)
13. Kush & Corinthians (His Pain) ft BJ The Chicago Kid [prod. by Wyldfire] (4.5)
14. Blow My High [prod. by Tommy Black] (4)
15. Ab-Soul’s Outro [prod. by Terrace Martin] (4.5)
16. HiiipoWeR [prod. by J. Cole] (5)

Few new artists can define this generation of rappers. Everyone seems to think the best of hip-hop as a culture and rap as an artform has passed. That may be true. But it also makes you think how some modern-day classics may be interpreted in the coming decade...will we think back and see that hip-hop underwent a revitalization? The only difference is where the quality music is coming from, really. Back in the day, you had no Internet. MySpace rappers weren't conceived. "Free" marketing meant you weren't going to sell at all, because you couldn't reach to anyone outside your hometown. Radio hits defined that generation, because that was the main way of reaching the fans. Today, we've flipped the script - while radio still remains an ever-popular medium for more casual listeners to get their fix, all the true heads know that more serious artists are discovered elsewhere, not on the radio.

Anyway, all that blathering aside, I consider Kendrick Lamar to be in the same category as new-school rappers like J. Cole and Jay Electronica. Mix a bit of the classic era and the new era with a personal twist. Lots of (excellent) storytelling, an occasional battle track, the all-out banger - it's been done before. Kendrick Lamar makes everything feel so deliberate and well-designed with such high polish that it's hard to ignore his talent. Most impressive is the fact that even with all the variety, there's not a "bad" track to be found on this album at all. It's listenable the whole way through, multiple times in a day as I've done. It's an enjoyable album on nearly every level.

Sample Tracks

"A.D.H.D."


"The Spiteful Chant"


"Kush & Corinthians (His Pain)"


Beats & Production: 9/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 9/10

Originality & Creativity: 9/10

Score: 92/100

Download

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Freeway - Philadelphia Freeway


1. Free (Intro)
2. What We Do... - (featuring Jay-Z/Beanie Sigel) (4.75)
3. All My Life - (featuring Nate Dogg) (4.25)
4. Flipside - (featuring Peedi Crakk) (4)
5. On My Own - (featuring Nelly) (3)
6. We Get Around - (featuring Snoop Dogg) (3.5)
7. Don't Cross the Line - (featuring Faith Evans) (3.5)
8. Life - (featuring Beanie Sigel) (3.75)
9. Full Effect - (featuring Young Gunz) (3.75)
10. Turn out the Lights (Freewest) (4)
11. Victim of the Ghetto - (featuring Rell) (4.25)
12. You Don't Know (In the Ghetto) - (featuring Sparks) (4)
13. Alright - (featuring Allen Anthony) (5)
14. Hear the Song (4.75)
15. You Got Me - (featuring Mariah Carey/Jay-Z) (3.75)
16. Line 'Em Up - (featuring Young Chris) (3)

Back when people cared about the Roc, hip-hop was in a transitional state. It was breaking out of the high-quality and well-crafted sound of the '90s and turning into a more mainstream, less carefully crafted "hip-pop". In between the two eras was the introduction of the likes of Freeway, Kanye, etc. who embraced and blended both the newer and older styles. That really comes through on this album. There are moments where Freeway and his features shine, and the track becomes much more memorable than it should have been. Other times, it falls beyond flat. Seriously, this might be the worst ending track to an album I've ever heard. Young Chris kills it - not in a good way. For me, the weird thing with this album is that while few tracks stand out on their own, the album as a whole remains memorable and cohesive. The best tracks here are mainly the ones that made it to radio a few years back - the ones that still occasionally make rounds at noon or whenever your local station takes their heads out their asses and plays something decent.

Sample Tracks

"All My Life"


"Victim of the Ghetto"


"Line 'Em Up"


Beats & Production: 8.5/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 8/10

Originality & Creativity: 8/10

Overall Grade: 81%

Download

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scientifik - Criminal


1. Lawtown (4.75)
2. I Got Planz (Feat. Diamond D) (4.5)
3. Jungles Of Da East (4.5)
4. Overnite Gangsta (4.25)
5. Yeah Daddy (4.25)
6. Still An Herb Dealer (4.5)
7. As Long As You Know (Feat. Edo G) (5)
8. Fallen Star (4.75)
9. Downlo Ho (4.5)
10. Criminal (5)

I've often wondered what makes an artist popular. Mainstream penetration seems so easy to get to these days. Old-school artists rarely get the spotlight, if ever. But who's to say that Biggie or Tupac is better than any other artist? Without getting into the whole "Top 5 Dead of Alive" debate that you can find anywhere else online, I don't buy into it. Neither one of them are anywhere near my favorite MCs. Maybe I don't fully understand because I wasn't a fan of hip-hop back in the mid-90s. Rappers like Scientifik, who had considerably less appeal back then and now, have a lot less recorded material lying around. No unreleased tracks from the vault will ever appear. But that makes him no less worthy of praise. He's an excellent MC on this album with top-notch production that blends easily into the mid-90s flavor of rap, combining well-executed, no-nonsense rhymes with jazzy boom-bap production. Add 16 bars from Diamond D and Edo G and you've got a well-rounded (if short) package. It's been done time and time again, but in today's world, it's always a refreshing listen. Scientifik accomplished nothing new or groundbreaking in his time, but a trip back to the Second Golden Age is always a treat.

Sample Tracks

"Jungles of Da East"


"Still An Herb Dealer"


"Downlo Ho"


Beats & Production: 9/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 9/10

Originality & Creativity: 8/10

Overall Grade: 87%

Download

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Track of the Day: The Nonce - Mixtapes




I recently had no clue who The Nonce was, but was intrigued after their '94/'95 single, "Mixtapes", came up on Sirius one day. They were kinda revolutionary for their time, though widely unknown, for being one of the first West Coast groups that adopted a NY/East Coast style. Called World Ultimate, it's a good album for those yearning for under-appreciated artists of the '90s.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vakill - Armor of God


1. Intro
2. Hi Ate Us (produced by Panik) (4.5)
3. Armor of God (produced by Jake One) (4.25)
4. Mean Mug Muzik (produced by Panik) (4)
5. Sick Cinema (produced by Panik) (4)
6. Heavy (produced by Panik) (4.25)
7. Endless Road f/Vizion (produced by Bluntologist) (4.25)
8. The Apology (produced by Joe Blow) (5)
9. Wild Wild (produced by Bluntologist) (3.75)
10. Beast Ballad f/Crooked I, Rhymefest, Juice & Nino Bless (produced by Panik) (4.75)
11. NWA (produced by Panik) (4.5)
12. You Don’t Know f/Astonish (produced by Panik) (4.5)
13. I Came for U (produced by Panik) (5)
14. Armorgeddon (produced by Jake One) (4.5)
15. A Lynched Legacy (produced by Memo) (4.25)
16. Bi-Polar (produced by Panik) (4.25)
17. Proof (produced by Jake One) (4)

After 5 years, Va is finally back. I'll admit, while I was hyped for the album, I was a little apprehensive of whether or not it was gonna live up to his previous albums - especially The Darkest Cloud, one of my favorite albums of all time, and easily my favorite of 2003. With hip-hop's ever-changing style, we've all seen artists turn mainstream in an attempt to appeal to the masses, hoping for more sales but in the end only alienating their fans and not expanding their fanbase. Yet Vakill's lyricism is still as structured yet free-flowing and as witty as before. Production is pretty decent, it's not the highlight here by a long stretch, though I think it's more consistent than on Worst Fears Confirmed. However, I feel the album is marred a little bit by its length. One of the trickiest things to balance on a rap album is quality vs. quantity. Most artists, if they try hard enough, can create an impressive and entertaining EP, but it's the mark of a true artist if they can craft an interesting album that can captivate you from front to back. It's a rare feat that most artists, included Vakill, can't seem to pull off. There's some filler here. While you've got a number of impressive tracks like "The Apology", they're followed up by forgettable ones like "Wild Wild". Overall, this album is certainly an enjoyable listen - it's hard to discount Vakill's lyrical ability and his ability to craft a tight and intelligent rhyme track after track.

Sample Tracks

"Armor of God"


"Beast Ballad"


"Bi-Polar"


Beats & Production: 8.5/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 9.5/10

Originality & Creativity: 8/10

Overall Grade: 86%

Download

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Track of the Day - Ghetto Dreams (Feat. Nas)


They actually almost flow like it isn't 2011.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Co$$ - Before I Awoke


01 Risen (prod. J83) (4.25)
02 Spaceman (prod. Fonetik Simbol) (4)
03 Khakis and Taylors (prod. Fonetik Simbol) (4)
04 In the Wind (prod. J83) (4.25)
05 When I Feel f. Shawn Jackson (prod. J83) (4)
06 10-4 (prod. Insightful) (4)
07 What It Is? (prod. Knxwledge) (4.5)
08 Burn It Down (prod. Cook Classics) (4.75)
09 Da Meanest (prod. Exile) (4)
10 Pot Ash (prod. Exile) (5)
11 Only When I Dream f. Sene & Aloe Blacc (prod. Chief) (5)
12 Love Is (prod. Chief) (4.25)
13 Born Again f. Blu & Sene (prod. Fonetik Simbol) (4.5)
14 No Allah (prod. Erik L) (4.25)
15 Scriptures (prod. The Soul Academy) (4.25)
16 Before I Awoke (No Rest) (prod. Beatnick Dee) (4.5)
17 So Simple (prod. Tranzformer) [Bonus] (4.75)
18 Falling From Grace (prod. DJ Playa Haze) [Bonus] (4.25)
19 Star f. Shawn Jackson (prod. Fonetik Simbol) [Bonus] (4)

Rarely do you see excellent artists anymore. The so-called greats, the golden era, the classics - all those eras have passed for hip-hop, or so it seems. Sure, you've got you're modern-day classics, but few albums released today are classics, ones to live by, things that define and represent everything within a genre. Co$$ doesn't do that here on his debut album, either. Though it's his debut, don't mistake him for a rookie - he's been around on a few tracks before, released a couple mixtapes as well, and he definitely has some lyrical prowess, though he shines best on his own album versus a guest feature. One of the album's stand-outs is its style as a whole. Rarely do you get a taste of California through a hip-hop album anymore. Everything's global, to a point, and everything nowadays sounds a little less regional. Co$$ rides a perfect balance between classic California style - smooth, laid-back, sometimes jazzy beats injected with a hint of old-school G-Funk - and modern-day sounds. It's inevitably what makes it such a great listen, because while Co$$ is a great lyricist, he tends to drag on. Part of this feels due to his laid-back and effortless delivery. It would have been nice to have a couple tracks where he went all-out, though from what I've heard on his other tracks, that's clearly not his style. Would have been nice for him to change it up to add a bit of variety here, however. What impresses me most about the album is how cohesive sounds. Even with a slew of producers, it's got the same Cali feel throughout. The rhymes accompany the style perfectly. The features are few but are perfectly timed and match the subject. Definitely one to look out for in future releases and collabos.

Sample Tracks

"Khakis and Taylors"


"Pot Ash"


"Scriptures"


Beats & Production: 8.5/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 8.5/10

Originality & Creativity: 9/10

Overall Grade: 88%

Download

Monday, June 20, 2011

Has-Lo - In Case I Don't Make It


1. Utero (Produced By: Has-Lo)
2. Build Jewelz (Produced By: Has-Lo) (4.5)
3. Everything Is (Produced By: Has-Lo) (4.5)
4. Fiber Optics (Produced By: Has-Lo) (5)
5. Kinetic Energy (Produced By: Has-Lo) (4.25)
6. Limit (Produced By: Has-Lo) (4.5)
7. Untitled #1 (Hold On) (Produced By: Has-Lo) (4.5)
8. Sub-Ether (Produced By: Has-Lo) (4.5)
9. Forgotten Styles (Produced By: Has-Lo) (3.75)
10. Untitled #2 (Conception To Procession) (Produced By: Has-Lo) (5)
11. Storm Clouds (Produced By: Has-Lo) (4.5)
12. Years Later (Produced By: Has-Lo) (4)
13. Subliminal Oppression (Produced By: Has-Lo) (5)
14. Limbo (Interlude) (Produced By: Has-Lo)
15. In Case I Don't Make It (Produced By: Has-Lo) (4.5)

Has-Lo's a relatively new cat in the game. Those who've heard the name as of late know him from a couple of Mello Music-related artists' songs. Which he was recently signed to once a Mello Music rep enjoyed one of his homemade YouTube videos for a track off his second EP, Small Metal Objects. While Has may lack a lot of industry experience, his debut LP comes shows him as someone who's almost too mature for his own good. The album suffers a little bit because of it; the subject matter is completely macabre, save a track or two. At the same time, this is what lets the album shine. If you're the type who likes to deconstruct tracks and find meaning and intention into what an artist has crafted, this is perfection. It's like an El-P album minus a bit of the abstract and *any* other artists. Add in the sparse yet subtle beat selection and after a few spins it becomes apparent why Has is a modern hip-hop genius. Guaranteed to be one of the most underrated albums of 2011.

Sample Tracks

"Everything Is"


"Sub-Ether"


"Subliminal Oppression"


Beats & Production: 9/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 10/10

Originality & Creativity: 9.5/10

Overall Grade: 95%

Download

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Track of the Day: Jr & PH7 - Summer Chill (Feat. Edgar Allen Floe)


I'd first heard of Edgar Allen Floe a few years back when he released his Streetwise LP in '08. Without knowing him, it somehow caught my attention, I downloaded it and gave it a listen. Though the album itself didn't stick, the name did. As a lesser-known member of the Justus League, he hasn't seen much success or critical acclaim, but this is a damn good track to just chill to on a hot (late-spring) day.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Random Axe (Guilty Simpson, Sean Price, Black Milk) - Random Axe


1. Zoo Drugs (Intro)
2. Random Call (4.75)
3. Black Ops feat. Fat Ray (4.25)
4. Chewbacca feat. Roc Marciano (4)
5. The Hex (5)
6. Understand This (4)
7. Everybody, Nobody, Somebody (4.5)
8. Jahphy Joe feat. Melanie Rutherford & Danny Brown (4.25)
9. The Karate Kid (4.5)
10. Never Back Down (4)
11. Monster Babies (4.25)
12. Shirley C feat. Fatt Father (5)
13. Another One feat. Rock & Trick Trick (4.25)
14. 4 In The Box (4)
15. Outro Smoutro (Outro)

If there's anything us hip-hop heads love more than anything, it's when new groups form out of well-versed MCs. This trio's well-known throughout more Internet-savvy hip-hop fans; tracks such as "The Hex", along with a few others, hyped us up for a modern-era classic. While we didn't get quite what we were hoping for, it is a strong album for the most part. Black Milk takes care of the beats and a little bit of the rhyming; as such, the majority of the beats are excellent. In traditional Black Milk fashion, they're a mash of boom-bap, soul, and quasi-experimental synths. One thing I feel each beat does well is match the MCs and their style on each track, in terms of both tempo and instruments used. The rhyming is where I (and a few others) felt a little slighted. All 3, individually, can be beasts, but save a few tracks I didn't get that sense that they were a supergroup like Slaughterhouse. I mean, I expect Sean P to go all-out bananas on each track...but he rarely left me stunned. Black Milk and Guilty even less so. Of course, this is a more a subjective thing, and it's not a strong detractor for an overall excellent record.

Sample Tracks

"Random Call"


"The Hex"


"Monster Babies"


Beats & Production: 8.5/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 8.5/10

Originality & Creativity: 8/10

Overall Grade: 83%

Download

Friday, June 3, 2011

Blue Scholars - Cinemetropolis


01. Cinemetropolis (4)
02. Hussein (4)
03. Fou Lee
04. Lalo Schifrin (4)
05. Seijun Suzuki (3.5)
06. Anna Karina (4.25)
07. Marion Sunshine (4)
08. Slick Watts (3)
09. George Jackson (4)
10. Oskar Barnack GeP Oscar Grant (3.75)
11. Yuri Kochiyama (3.75)
12. Rani Mukerji (3.75)
13. Tommy Chong (4.25)
14. Chief Sealth (4)
15. Fin (4)

Blue Scholars are somewhat of an anomaly in today's hip-hop world. This is shown no better than with their most recent release. It's like they have one part stuck in the trendy, hip, tight-jean-wearin' world, while the other part remains true to their underground Seattle roots. Now, Seattle's not really renown for it's hip-hop acts. When an artist from an unrepresented area gets the spotlight, they gotta represent and bring the best their region has. They've gotta represent the raw undiscovered talent while having (more) mass appeal. So I definitely understand the route Sabzi & Geo have taken the past few years, starting most notably with their OOF! EP in '09. Their new style embodies a bit more of the trendy hip-hop than I'd like, to be honest, as with this release. It really comes off in the somewhat out-of-place beats and Geo's somewhat simplified rhymes. They don't forget where they've come from though; their roots are most firmly planted in the socially conscious realm, and it does show through on a few tracks. Though I liked BS a lot more on Bayani and their '04 self-titled debut, the new style they've taken isn't all for naught. It's just more of a laid-back experience than I've come to expect from them. A more simpler experience. One that I have a hard time remembering any standout lines, choruses, or track titles from. Not necessarily bad, just not my personal favorite from them. Truly, not much to say about this one; just give it a spin to see if you like it.

Sample Tracks

"Hussein"


"Slick Watts"


"Tommy Chong"


Beats & Production: 7.5/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 8/10

Originality & Creativity: 8.5/10

Overall Grade: 80%

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Elzhi - Elmatic


01. The Genesis (4.5)
02. Detroit State of Mind (Houseshoes Shout) (4.75)
03. Halftime (4.75)
04. Memory Lane (4.75)
05. The World Is Yours (4.75) - Great instrumental at end
06. Represent (4.5)
07. Life’s A Bitch f. Royce Da 5’9? & Stokley Williams (of Mint Condition) (5)
08. One Love (4.75)
09. It Ain’t Hard To Tell (Pete Rock Shout) (4.5)
10. Pete Rock Shout (4)

There's so much to say about Illmatic, but everything's already been said, so I'll leave it at that. Few MCs have tried to recreate, match, or top the likes of Nas' greatest. Even fewer modern MCs have the wit and skill (or balls) to try and accomplish such a feat. Elzhi is one of the few that not only knows he can (at least try) to do it, but fans know this too (why else would it be so hyped?). Thankfully, the album/mixtape does live up to the hype. It's not a simple imitation, nor a complete reworking of the album, but a crafty hybrid of the two. Beats are ever-so-slightly modified in subtle yet satisfying ways. A good idea not to stray too far from the originals here. The same goes for Elzhi's style. It's not biting Nas at all (except for the obligatory lines inserted for nostalgia's sage); it's all-new rhymes that match the beats as perfectly as an MC other than Nas could craft. If anything, it's Illmatic, yes, but it's been redesigned through the lens of a different city, a city with a bit more soul (check "Life's A Bitch"), and some of the best MCs of our day.

Sample Tracks

"Detroit State of Mind"


"Life's A Bitch"


"It Ain't Hard to Tell"


Beats & Production: 9/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 9.5/10

Originality & Creativity: 9.5/10

Overall Grade: 93%

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Slum Village - Fantastic Vol. 2


01. Intro
02. Conant Gardens (4.25)
03. I Don't Know (Feat. Dj Jazzy Jeff) (4.5)
04. Jealousy (4.25)
05. Climax (Girl Shit) (5)
06. Hold Tight (Feat. Q-Tip) (4.5)
07. Tell Me (Feat. D'Angelo) (4.75)
08. What It's All About (Feat. Busta Rhymes) (4.5)
09. Forth and Back (Feat. Kurupt) (4.5)
10. Untitled (Fantastic) (4.25)
11. Fall In Love (4.5)
12. Get Dis Money (5)
13. Raise It Up (4.5)
14. Once Upon a Time (Feat. Pete Rock) (4.5)
15. Players (5)
16. Eyes Up (4.25)
17. 2U4U (4.5)
18. CB4 (4.25)
19. Go Ladies (4)

It's obvious J Dilla is a legend, no question. But just like many other talented artists who've passed, their notoriety grows after their death. Few outside the (much smaller) hip-hop realm back before the Internet blew up held J Dilla in high regard, even if they were familiar with his works with Busta Rhymes, ATCQ, and others. Of course that all changed in 2006, but back in the '90s was when he established himself as a high-quality producer who could rhyme every now and then. Fantastic Vol. 2 is when this all comes to a head. The production here is easily SV's best, and the lyrics fit the production nearly perfectly, even if it's not the most technically amazing work ever. Things just feel right for much of the album, and the few slip ups are rarely skippable. Baatin and T3 work the album well, though there are few standout verses from either of the three lyricists. Everything just feels like it blends together well; few things stand out in an excellent or terrible way. The entire album's soulful approach to rhyming really set it off as being a workable concept that many others followed back then, to this day, and I'm sure we'll continue seeing Dilla tributes in the future. His legacy lives on.

Sample Tracks

"Climax (Girl Shit")


"Get Dis Money"



"Players"


Beats & Production: 9.5/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 8/10

Creativity & Originality: 9.5/10

Overall Grade: 90%

Download

Monday, May 9, 2011

Track of the Day: Slum Village - Selfish (Feat. Kanye & John Legend)


One of the best singles in hip-hop, period.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Track of the Day: Vakill - Armorgeddon







1. Intro
2. Hi Ate Us (produced by Panik)
3. Armor of God (produced by Jake One)
4. Mean Mug Muzik (produced by Panik)
5. Sick Cinema (produced by Panik)
6. Heavy (produced by Panik)
7. Endless Road f/Vizion (produced by Bluntologist)
8. The Apology (produced by Joe Blow)
9. Wild Wild (produced by Bluntologist)
10. Beast Ballad f/Crooked I, Rhymefest, Juice & Nino Bless (produced by Panik)
11. NWA (produced by Panik)
12. You Don’t Know f/Astonish (produced by Panik)
13. I Came for U (produced by Panik)
14. Armorgeddon (produced by Jake One)
15. A Lynched Legacy (produced by Memo)
16. Bi-Polar (produced by Panik)
17. Proof (produced by Jake One)

Yep...June 14th!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Track of the Day: Method Man & Redman - How High


I don't smoke, but it's obligatory.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Self Scientific - The Self Science


01. Opus (Intro)
02. The Covenant (4.75/5)
03. Best Part (4.25/5)
04. The Long Run (4.25/5)
05. Cash Craft (4.5/5)
06. Three Kings (4.5/5)
07. We All Need (4.25/5)
08. Murderation (3.5/5)
09. You Can't Fall (4.75/5)
10. The Self Science (4.75/5)
11. Duality (4.5/5)
12. Love Allah (4.5/5)
13. Dead Honest (4/5)
14. Anguish (4/5)
15. Return (4.25/5)

What I really love about hip-hop, especially the stuff that avoids ears of mainstream listeners, is how diverse and fun it can be. That fleeting feeling that you've found something special when you come upon a new artist or album. After hearing Chace Infinite's on Kweli's "Self Savior" on Gutter Rainbows, I made a mental note to look him up. Never did 'til a few days ago - my mistake. This dude can really spit. He reminds me of a young, skilled, cutthroat yet wise MC, just like Kweli on Train of Thought. Chace delivers a certain balance as an MC on this album that is just difficult to find anymore. Even though his style gets a little stale towards the end of the album, it's still a compelling listen the whole way through. For a strictly underground (good luck finding it new) release, DJ Khalil (obviously the producer in the duo) provides just enough heat to ignite Chace to let him murder the track. Though it's systematic and been done before, it's not too common, and the overall impression is that it's still impressive.

Sample Tracks

"Best Part"


"You Can't Fall"


"Duality"


Beats & Production: 8.5/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 9.5/10

Originality & Creativity: 8.5/10

Overall Grade: 89%

Download

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ill Bill & Vinnie Paz - Heavy Metal Kings


1. Keeper Of The Seven Keys (4.25/5)
2. Eye Is The King (4.5/5)
3. Impaled Nazarene (4.75/5)
4. Children Of God (4/5)
5. Blood Meridian (4.5/5)
6. Oath Of The Goat (4.25/5)
7. King Diamond (4.25/5)
8. The Vice Of Killing (4.5/5)
9. Devil's Rebels (4/5)
10. Age Of Quarrel (4/5)
11. Metal In Your Mouth (4.25/5)
12. Terror Network (4.5/5)
13. Leviathan (The Spell Of Kingu) (3.75/5)
14. The Crown Is Mine (4/5)
15. Splatterfest (3.75/5)
16. The Final Call (3.75/5)

I've pretty much gotten use to the fact that half the time, track titles have little to nothing to do with a song's content. Ehh, more like 100% of the time here, but it's whatever. It's hard to introduce something that seems so familiar for the most part. Even though both Bill & Paz are in the same league in terms of hip-hop status and style, Ill Bill holds the album together while Vinnie continues his resistance to change. Yeah, using the same violent line after line after line worked for one album, but after more than half a dozen more, it's become more than stale. Ill Bill's style comes off as refreshing, entertaining, and evolving in comparison. Some of his lines are completely tongue-twisting and come in at just the right time to minimize Vinnie's damage. Overall the main thing with the album is how similar each track sounds to the next. It's partially for cohesiveness, but at the same time it can drone on for the last third of the album. Luckily the production helps keep things in check, though it suffers from a bit of monotony. It's still enjoyable, mixing a little boom bap with light rock influences and weird synthy samples. Overall, an album that could use a little more variety - and one less rapper.

Sample Tracks

"Blood Meridian"


"Age of Quarrel"


"The Crown Is Mine"


Beats & Production: 8/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 8.5/10

Originality & Creativity: 7.5/10

Overall Grade: 80%

Download

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Track of the Day: Miilkbone - Ghettobiz


I'm sorry...there's just no good pics of the guy lol.

Good track tho. His entire debut album Da Miilkrate is extremely overlooked, definitely check it out. I think he's the definition of "fell off" though - he's now a steel plant worker.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cunninlynguists - Oneirology


01. Predormitum (Prologue) (4.5/5)
02. Darkness (Dream On) (4.5/5)
03. Phantasmata (Interlude) (4.25/5)
04. Hard As They Come (Act I) (5/5)
05. Murder (Act II) (5/5)
06. My Habit (I Haven’t Changed) (Interlude) (4.5/5)
07. Get Ignorant (5/5)
08. Shattered Dreams (4.25/5)
09. Stars Shine Brightest (In The Darkest Of Night) (4.75/5)
10. So As Not To Wake You (Interlude)
11. Enemies With Benefits (4.5/5)
12. Looking Back (5/5)
13. Dreams (4/5)
14. Hypnopomp (Epilogue) (Interlude)
15. Embers (4.5/5)

Mmmkay, so we already know Cunnin's one of the pioneering groups representing our genre, at least for those in the know. They return with an album about dreams. Kinda. It's a weird concept to grasp, and maybe it'll flesh in more over time. Excluding the interludes, some samples, and a few tracks, there's few explicit references to a cohesive story or concept here. So, at this point, the concept *seems* half-baked (that can change - and I'm sure the QN5 forums are already ripe with ideas). But the music itself clearly isn't. Once again, Kno creates uses his knockout (if formulaic and, quite frankly, getting long in the tooth) production techniques (i.e., his same drum) to create dramatic, layered beats that are worth the price of admission alone. To quote one of my least favorite rappers of all time, this goes hard in the paint. It would be nice to see Kno change his style up a little bit, as it's become a bit familiar over the past few years, but he's working with perfection at this point, and it shows. Now to the rapping aspects. Natti & Deac hold the album together really well. They've developed a chemistry and an affinity for Kno's beats that puts many groups (past and present) to shame. While I thought Kno was (somewhat shockingly) good on Death is Silent, he's less amazing here. His verses tend to get drowned out in the midst of guest features (Gibbs, Tonedeff & K.R.I.T. murder their respective tracks) and his own beats. Specifically, his verse on "Enemies with Benefits" is just...I hope he was trying to Tonedeff shine all the more, 'cause damn Kno slipped. Atmospheric, brooding, ethereal, and the continuation of a great year for hip-hop. CATM anybody?

Sample Tracks

"Murder (Act II)"


"Get Ignorant"


"Looking Back"


Best tracks: Most...
Not-so-great: "Dreams"

Beats & Production: 9/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 9/10

Originality & Creativity: 9/10

Overall Grade: 90%

Download

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Das EFX - Straight Up Sewaside


1. Intro (N/A)
2. Undaground Rappa (4/5)
3. Gimme Dat Micraphone (4/5)
4. Check It Out (4.5/5)
5. Interlude (N/A)
6. Freakit (4/5)
7. Rappaz (4.25/5)
8. Interview (N/A)
9. Baknaffek (4.5/5)
10. Kaught in da Ak (4/5)
11. Wontu (4/5)
12. Krazy Wit da Books (4.25/5)
13. It'z Lik Dat (4/5)
14. Host Wit da Most - (Rappaz Remix, Rappaz remix) (4.5/5)

When heads get together to fight over who had the greatest mark on hip-hop as a whole, some MCs come up time and time again while other groups get left in the past. Even if you're mainly a radio person, you've still at least heard of the "greats" (in quotes because I don't fully agree) - Pac, Biggie, Nas, Jay, etc. Then there's the more...obscure?...ones that if you don't dig in the crates (or search thoroughly enough) and notice that old-ass dusty scratched LP left in the corner, you miss out on. Yeah, you realize you're taking a gamble on it. It's your time, your money, but it could be a gem. That's what makes hip-hop so engrossing, even more so in the era of the Internet. Personally, without the Internet I never would have discovered many of the artists I'm into nowadays, and especially not Das EFX. Either way, for their second album (after Dead Serious), the group stepped back a bit from their funky debut and went for a more "traditional" boom-bap album - more than typical for the mid-90s. 'Course, that was the tip everyone was on back then, so if you wanted to stand out you had to do a few things. You could craft a superb album based on technical skill, perfect beats, or a gimmick. This album combines a bit of all 3. Yet while the "-iggidy" routine gets a bit stale after a few spins, the beats are excellent (much darker than expected based off their debut), and the group's skill is evident. It does drone in some areas, but a low track count helps keep things fresh enough to keep your head nodding the whole time. It's hard to describe their style in words (so be sure to peep the sample tracks below), especially if you haven't experienced their work before.

Sample Tracks

"Gimme Dat Microphone"


"Baknaffek"


"It'z Lik Dat"


Beats & Production: 8.5/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 8.5/10

Originality & Creativity: 8.5/10

Overall Grade: 85%

Download

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reks - Rhythmatic Eternal King Supreme


It seems that hip-hop is gonna buck the trend this year, finally. Normally the beginning of each year (in recent years) there's no high-profile, high-quality releases for the first few months. Here's another reason why 2011 is setting new standards. Of course, Reks already showed us his technical prowess and skill in '01 and '08, so we're no stranger to his style. I think of this as Grey Hairs Pt. 2 (no, More Grey Hairs wasn't all that great) - if you up the ante a little bit. It feels like Reks stripped some of the fat away, bulked up a bit, and came at the mic with fury. Reks never falters in his lyricism; even on oddball tracks like "Limelight", he still adds good wordplay to bolster the track ('cause that production ain't my fav...). He goes a little more introspective on this album; nearly the entire middle half consists of tales of his upbringing, his perspective on life, and what ails the black community. Yeah, it's all been done before, but Reks just brings an air of quality and polish in an overall package that is hard to dislike. Throw in some excellent production from the likes of Premo, PR, Statik, and others, and you've got yourself the makings of a contender for album of the year. Looks like it's gonna be a tough bout, though - a plus for us.

Sample Tracks

"Limelight"


"Face Off"


"Mascara (The Ugly Truth)"


Best tracks: All but "The Wonder Years"
Not-so-great: None

Beats & Production: 9/10

Rhymes & Lyricism: 10/10

Originality & Creativity: 8.5/10

Overall Grade: 92%

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