At a time when mixtapes are not only turning new MCs into stars but the DJs who deliver them jumping into the spotlight as well, now is as good a time as any for new blood to circulate throughout the street's true retail market. Enter DJ Splif and DJ Blue Steel, two fresh talents hailing from Brooklyn and ready to make noise with their first mixtape, "All Eyes On Me". Hosted by Maino, a newcomer with heavy buzz generating throughout his Brooklyn borough, "All Eyes On Me" is nicely packaged listen that offers exclusive freestyles, remixes, and several album cuts from the big releases currently dominating the urban charts. Bringing together the best rookie MCs in the New York scene on one tape along with heavyweights such as Jadakiss, M.O.P., and Mobb Deep is a common formula for popular mixtapes, but DJ's Splif and Blue Steel turn a formulaic approach into a consistently entertaining disc.
With current albums by Jadakiss and Lloyd Banks resting comfortably at the top of Billboard's throne, "All Eyes On Me" includes select tracks from both to bring some star power into the mix. The concrete-hard "Shoot Outs" from Jada and Styles P. keeps the grittiness on track, while Jada's "By Your Side" smoothes the mood out with its airy rhythm and addictive vocal sample. Lloyd Banks gets introspective on the serious "Southside Story," provides textbook driving music on the undeniable "I'm So Fly," and holds his own lyrically alongside Eminem and 50 Cent on "Warrior Part II". The all-star lineup continues with Twista inspiring new verses from Mobb Deep on "Got It Twisted Remix", while Brownsville's resident champions M.O.P. bring it back to their basics on the DJ Premier-laced "Murder". Even a brief moment of R&B is injected into All Eyes On Me, in the form of the 'first lady of G-Unit' Olivia's upbeat and romantic collaboration with 50 Cent, "Cloud 9".
The real strength that DJ Splif and DJ Blue Steel provide "All Eyes On Me" with is the solid group of new rappers represented. Ali Vegas resurfaces with "Live From France", and DJ Kay Slay's super-lyrical protégé Papoose contributes a tight freestyle over the instrumental for M.O.P.'s classic "How About Some Hardcore." Queen's next big star Grafh services dizzying metaphors and his off-kilter flow on the frantic "Food", while the game's most promising novice rapper Saigon keeps his well-deserved hype heightening with his "DJ Sickamore Freestyle" with 'middle finger u' bars:
"If I could diss all of these rappers then I would make me a hit
If I shot one of these niggas it would make me the shit
Let's see, who could it be
they already got the DJ from Run-D.M.C.
They got B.I.G., already got 'Pac
who wanna be the next biggest nigga in hip-hop
Who mad cuz their record ain't do too well
I got some 4-5 shells that'll boost your sales"
While "All Eyes On Me" allows many young guns to fire off shots, the disc's main attraction is Bed Stuy, Brooklyn product Maino. Armed with a brolic sense of confidence and a clearly polished flow, Maino impresses nicely throughout his five tracks. He attacks J-Kwon's "Hood Hop" beat with ferocity, doing the hot instrumental the justice J-Kwon definitely was not able to do. "Dear Diary" pairs Maino's brutal honesty with a haunting blend of piano keys, and "Tear Da Club Down" could incite riots courtesy of GQ Beatz fierce backdrop and Maino's violent hook. "All Eyes On Me" definitely serves as a great first impression for Maino, and leaves listeners anticipating his next moves.
With no Skip button usage necessary, DJ Splif and DJ Blue Steel have blessed the streets with pure heat, making a name for themselves that should only get bigger with each new mixtape they drop. If you reside in the New York City area, seek this disc out, especially for its sound quality and lack of steady DJ shouting over the songs. If you aren't a New Yorker, keep your eyes and ears open for the names DJ Splif, DJ Blue Steel, and Maino, because bigger things should be in their respective futures.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: July 13, 2004