It's been far too long since one of these columns appeared on RapReviews; but we're not about to drop the format. In fact now more than ever this column is needed to cut through the glut of new vinyl singles that are being delivered to our offices. So with a preliminary THANK YOU to all of the following artists and their labels for the hook-up, let's get the ball rolling on Volume 015 of "The Singles File" and check them out!
Artist: Liquid Smoke
Title: The Shoplifter 12"
Label: SubVerse Music
With production by ID4 Windz on the first side and Tef the Traktioner on the second side, Marq Spent a.k.a. Liquid Smoke has some nice unknown beatmasters but really doesn't get over with the rhymes. The self-titled flipside illustrates this point nicely with such lines as "blaze like Anakin, in a pod race" which he follows up with quizzical statements like "don't ask me what my name mean." Okay, but who's going to anyway? Although this twelve inch might get some rotation on college radio due to the strong beats (the instrumentals are good for freestyle ciphers and call-in MC's) Liquid Smoke just can't get over with weak analogies like "MC's with no teeth they still talkin bout they flossin." Just because you're not flossin wealth doesn't automatically mean you're better than something commercial that's wack - you still gotta have fresh rhymes to go with your fresh beats.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 5 of 10 TOTAL: 6.5 of 10
Artist: MF Doom
Title: I Hear Voices
Label: SubVerse Music
The Super Villain comes back to attack with this brand new twelve inch on SubVerse Music, moving away from Fondle 'Em Records but still maintaining the sound that made him a star on their label. This twelve inch has two "parts" - both with the same beat, but with the flipside featuring currently incarcerated MF Grimm. Since both songs are under three minutes in length it occurs to me they could have been blended together into one cut, but Doom is just a crazy mad genius like that. The rhyme flow is surprisingly upspeed for a typically slow flowing rapper; the problem is that this twelve inch clocking in at under nine minutes is just not enough of a fix - especially at the going rate of $6.50 for singles these days. As a teaser for a new album it works great but I wouldn't recommend it as a purchase - only as a promo record for mixtape and college DJ's to request for free promotion.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL: 7.5 of 10
Artist: O.C. + Ntense, Stimulus
Title: What You Want From Me b/w Don't Tell Me
Label: Legacy 4 Life Records
It's hard to deal with ironically named rappers anymore. Let's get raw here - if you're going to call yourself "Ntense" you should at least TRY to sound energetic. Canibus is a good example of intensity, but Ntense is a good example of laconical. His flow doesn't seem to reflect the kind of hunger an up-and-coming rapper should have, leaving him to play second fiddle to industry veteran O.C. on his own single - a nice cameo from a rapper we hear too little of these days. On the flipside the song "Don't Tell Me" by Stimulus has a more enthusiastic rapper who immediately blesses the track with a long line of alliteration. Due to his strong attack and a harmonic backdrop which is parts "Victory" by Puffy and "Apocalypse" by Wyclef, the b-side wins again. Packed with instrumentals and remixes, this twelve inch is a good pickup if you can get over the lack of intensity by Ntense.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL: 6.5 of 10
Artist: Soulviet Union
Title: Fix Your Face 12", In the World 12"
Label: Ambassadon Records
Comprised of Life, Jame, Iz, Don Heroic, Talib and DJ Rock On, the members of the Soulviet Union came together in Scranton, Pennsylvania to make an impact on the rap world with their sound. Unfortunately they hit a high mark conceptually with the group's name. The underwhelming beats of "Fix Your Face" are only exceeded by weak rhymes like "gunning at Indiana's Pace" which would piss off both Isiah Thomas and Reggie Miller. Unfortunately the tinny synthesized sound of "In the World" is even worse - the only accurate words to describe it are banal and repetitive. The big surprise here is that the latter's b-side "Pain" actually has a REALLY nice beat and bassline. Why wasn't THIS the lead single? It thumps hard. Unfortunately, batting .250 gets many a utility player sent back to the minor leagues, and without hearing more material it's not apparent that these guys are ready for The Big Show.
Music Vibes: 3 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 5 of 10 TOTAL: 4 of 10
Artist: Source of Labor
Title: Full Circle b/w Audio Visual, Clear Speak
Label: SubVerse Music
The name of this group is not readily apparent to me after dropping this twelve inch under the needle. Joe is Fat, and Method is the Man, but why is this group the Source of Labor? Are they providing cheap immigrant workers to General Motors? Jokes aside, the musical backing from Vitamin D and Wordsayer is more than competent; the problem is that the jacket for this record says each song is from the "critically acclaimed" album "Stolen Lives" which I have neither heard acclaim for nor seen reviewed by anyone from Elemental Magazine to XXL. Even though one could acclaim these beats to a degree, the rap presence is not making an impact. The low point was in "Audio Visual" when the MC rapped "it's like that y'all, and it just don't stop." The phrase may be a part of hip-hop's lexicon dating back to the Furious Five, but it doesn't sound like back in the days - it comes across more like a lack of anything to say. The flow is nice and the beats are precise but an underwhelming lyrical statement kills the buzz. For humerous snaps try Redman and for deeper meaning try Common.
Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 4 of 10 TOTAL: 5.5 of 10
Artist: Tame One
Title: Crazee b/w Doin Me, Boom Skwad On Attack
Label: Boom Skwad Recordings
It's been a long time since Tame One dropped his "Trife Type Times" twelve inch through Fat Beats, so this single is a welcome return to form for one of New Jersey's illest. At first heads may be caught off guard by the beat on "Crazee" - a slow paced bass attack that shifts up and down in an almost dischordant rhythm. Tame uses it's odd structure as a challenge though and thus puts himself in a league of terrifying tongue fury the equal of Pharoahe Monch. Not only are you won over by the song's fat bass bottom but how well this structure fits the song thematically - it really is crazy, and it works. "Doin Me" is not as musically advanced but the laid back beat is a perfect format for Tame's trademark humor: "All y'all Mini-Me's must have smoked too many trees/Only way you servin me is if you work at Mickey D's." The bonus track "Boom Skwad On Attack" features the fellow members of his crew throwing down nicely, but it's Tame's single and Tame's world - they are just guests on this fat single.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL: 8 of 10
Originally posted: April 20, 2001