7L & Esoteric, C-Rayz Walz, DJ Vadim, Dynas, Foreign Legion, Kubiq, Skitzofreniks, Sub Contents, S.U.N. :: The Singles File Volume 022
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon, LOS, Andrew Matson

EDITOR'S NOTE: All of the reviews found in 'The Singles File' are being presented WITHOUT scores. You are left to interpret the dopeness/wackness of the single on the words of the writer alone. For any comments on this format, please contact the editor and they will be evaluated for future columns.

Artist: 7L & Esoteric
Title:  Watch Me 12"
Label:  Brick Records/Landspeed Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Esoteric's name might leave you thinking he's hard to follow, but on his "Watch Me" single he delivers one of his most understandable singles to date. 7L produces and cuts on the thunderous title track, which includes pianos, a clever Ghostface sample, and quips by Es like "You rap Liberace's, leave me sicker than the Nazis/Esoteric is the name, motherfucker watch me." Although this is a good start, it only gets better on the B-side with "Word Association." Esoteric imagines himself as the patient in the office of a psychiatrist subjecting him to an exam to determine if he's mental or not. 7L again provides the meaty boom and bass while the self-described Eso-teradactyl can't help but get brutal: "Pedophile? 'Pulpits,' De La? 'Cool skits,' How do you feel about this exam? 'I think it's bullshit!'" The end result of the song is that he gets locked up, but with songs like these and the bonus track "Can't Come Close" will leave you locked onto his flows and 7L's DJ Premier-esque productions. The included 7L instrumentals, in particular that of "Word Association," make this single a must have in the crates of any respectable hip-hop DJ who spins indie rap.

Artist: C-Rayz Walz
Title:  Mood Swings b/w Make it Happen 12"
Label:  SubVerse Music
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

C-Rayz Walz sounds like the next rapper who is supposed to get over; at least if you believe his own braggadocio: "Remember my name, you'll be screaming it someday!" For better or worse though, "Mood Swings" won't do that for him - he's got clever snaps like "I don't give a fuck like the celibate" but the monotonous 4th Pyramid track doesn't help the nerdy sounding MC move past backpacker status. "Make it Happen" is better musically (maybe because it was mixed at D&D studios) but features a corny sung hook that kills the buzz. C-Rayz is another underground MC with potential whose mediocre single wastes both valuable time and his own chance to shine.

Artist: DJ Vadim
Title:  Combustible 12"
Label:  Ninja Tune
Writer: LOS

This is an example of where most of us would like to see hip-hop venture off into. DJ Vadim is a deep dark secret from Russia, while Gab is the cool mud of underground hip-hop in the USA. They combine on "Combustible" for a track is part soul food and part lyrical marathon. This combination will have MC's signing up for visas busloads at a time. Phi-Life Cipher also get some soul food, but in a jam-session takeout package. "Ghetto Rebels" is done with layering of the samples playing out like a call and response from a concert set, while the Phi-Life Cipher crew are rippin and roarin' thru the folds. Accompanying these vocal gems is a new pick from the DJ Vadim vault of instrumental genius called "Harp Song." It is just that - a composite of harp strums that only Vadim could turn into a masterpiece. The icing on the cake is a nifty Spanish track "Dimelo Es El Verbo" featuring Mucho Mu. You don't really need to know Spanish to feel the flow being dropped. Instrumentals of "Combustible" and "Ghetto Rebels" are also included on this masterpiece.

Artist: Dynas
Title:  Spittin' b/w Miami 12"
Label:  Badgramma Records/Beyond Real Recordings
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

DJ Spinna's back again to turn vinyl into gold like a musical Midas. Badgramma recording artist Dynas is the conduit for this alchemy, and his "Spittin'" is also the next single off Beyond Real's "Volume 2" compilation. The beat is typical Primo-esque work from Spinna; semi- derivative but not insulting to the ear. Dynas himself is a brag rapper with the typical repoitoire about having "the streets under lock and key"; he has an impeccable flow but says little that's new. While he represents a new strain of Florida rappers focused more on the underground than booty shake, it's Spinna that gets Dynas over. Dynas should thank his lucky stars to have hooked up with him.

Artist: Foreign Legion
Title:  Happy Drunk b/w Feel the Music 12"
Label:  Look Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Remembered in the underground for their uniquely titled Y2K album "Beats to Rock While Bike-Stealin," Foreign Legion is back to prove they didn't just disappear or get sent up on a bid for what they advocated. With "Happy Drunk" though they're pushing the social compact out even further, advocating being "three sheets to the wind, fucked up, hammered and shit-faced." The duo of Prozack and Marc Stretch concentrate on spitting rap snaps over bouncy "Cali funk for the hardcore drunks" provided by DJ Design, and the combination works incredibly well. Pared with a bouncy B-Side that re-interprets P. Diddy's "Been Around the World" among other things, "Feel the Music" wins with punchlines like "your style's phonier than Miss Cleo's accent." Enlist in Foreign Legion and you'll enjoy hardcore beats with a comedic twist.

Artist: Kubiq
Title:  Neva U b/w 2K 12"
Label:  Heratik Productions
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Kubiq falls into that no-man's land of hardcore underground rap: good enough to release singles and get spins on college radio, yet lacking the "it" factor to blow up on a major level beyond that. The beats by Fanatik and cuts by DJ Design are tight, and the sample of Pharoahe Monch on "Neva U" is a definite crowd pleaser. Witty raps like "I spit on mics and leave 'em spotted like leopard skins" will probably convert some fans, even though Kubiq's flow is uncompromising in changing vocal tone or sharpening his diction in a way reminiscent of Shabaam Sahdeeq. Still with quality headnod beats on this and the "2K" B-side, this Heratik Productions release might push Kubiq - and an improved flow will push him even further.

Artist: Skitzofreniks
Title:  Naturally b/w It Don't Matter 12"
Label:  Brick Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

The combination of Eddie Bones on the boards and MicCheck on the vocals has been a hit since Skitzofreniks first jocked themselves with "On My Own Shit." On "Naturally" the trend continues with a simple and effective track of hard drums and keyboard chords, with Mic's comedically contradictory lines like "I could lie through my teeth and be a man of my word" and snaps like "I get enough head to change my name to MC Brains." Laced with a B-Side of chunky dirty funk and a Craig Mack hook, plus instrumentals and a bonus Massachusetts all-star "On My Own Shit" revision, this shit's on hit.

Artist: Sub Contents
Title:  Death Becomes H.E.R. 12"
Label:  Heratik Productions
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Unlike their labelmate Kubiq, Sub Contents do not display anything that would make them interesting beyond this release. The lyricists Dave Dub and Persevere are monotonous in their flows, varying only between thuggery and pseudo-elitism over ploddingly monotone beats provided by Rob Bass (who has nothing to do with the one who did "I Wanna Rock"). Neither the A-side with it's reference to Common Sense's hip-hop classic nor the B-sides "Spit Those" and "Moderation vs. Excess" show any potential beyond throwing this platter at a wall to see how many pieces it can be shattered into. That's right, these are the only "hits" that any Sub Contents single will be facing in the future.

Artist: S.U.N.
Title:  Black Economics CD-5
Label:  Silent Records
Writer: Andrew Matson

In case you don't know, S.U.N. stands for Scientific Universal Noncommercial; so right off the bat, you know this guy probably rocks a backpack and headphones. "Black Economics" is the title track, "Super Scientifical" is the B-side, while additional snippets of "Give Me Understanding", "State of Mind", and "Blaze a Path" round out this CD single. S.U.N.'s flow is pretty low key and could be a little more dynamic; he sounds like a slightly less confident Talib Kweli. He's definitely of the "listen to what I say, not how I say it" brand of lyricist. As a straight rhymer, he's not bad, but not really that amazing either. Occasionally S.U.N. drops a few bars that catch you off guard as surprisingly clever, but that's the problem: if you're capable of spitting nice lyrics, do it all the time. "Black Economics" starts out with what sounds like a some kind of classical guitar hook and some scratching, and is accompanied by a simple yet effective kick-and-snare drum track courtesy DJ AMF that makes for a strong mid-tempo beat. S.U.N. spits a few rhymes that show a refreshing sense of humor: "Everything is hot from VCR's to DVD's/any car you want with or without the keys/even baby-sit, clean your house, hook your cable/even mow your lawn if you can't or you're disabled." The next track "Super Scientifical" features S.U.N. co-producing with Decompoze to create a dark, plodding piano loop with subtle touches of strings and distant female vocals. The beat for "Give Me Understanding" isn't that original, and the lone violin and minimalist beat thing is definitely getting a little annoying today in "underground" rap. "State of Mind" samples Nas from the classic "New your State of Mind" and manages to squeeze a little more life out of the simple single-note-piano-with-hard-bass into something that sounds pretty good but not earth-shatteringly original. A good example of how S.U.N. can sound pretty tight at first listen, but actually not make much sense is the following verse: "I grapple in an octagon/battle with the pentagon/my black economics, I don't need no stock in Enron." What does that even mean? But for the most part, his lyrics are alright.

Originally posted: October 15, 2002
source: www.RapReviews.com