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Thursday October 30, 2014
Feature of the Week

[Run the Jewels 2] Don't cry.

Run the Jewels Review

Latest News Headlines
Audio: J-Live "I Am A Man (American Justice)" @RealJLive @MortierMusic

Audio: J-Live "I Am A Man (American Justice)"

Mortier: In the wake of the recent, not so recent and far too consistent tragedies and travesties of justice concerning Black men women children and the police, J-Live brings you "I Am A Man (American Justice)". The title and cover art, inspired by the iconic signs from the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Worker Strike, is a declaration of human rights. The song serves as J's open letter to abusive police as well as their apologists and supporters.

The (W)rap Up - Week of October 21, 2014

If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including T.I.'s "Paperwork" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

[Paperwork] T.I. :: Paperwork
Grand Hustle/Columbia Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"T.I. has ambitious plans for "Paperwork" - so grand that I admire his hustle but also so grandiose that I worry if it will all come to fruition. He talks about wanting to release "Paperwork" as a trilogy of albums 6-9 months apart, and how he wants to film a movie to illustrate the subject matter of the songs. The rapper who once aptly described himself as a "Trouble Man - always in trouble man" needs to stay free of legal and persnal drama for long enough to make that possible. There's no doubt his heart is in the right place and his intentions sincere - how many rappers do you know that stopped and took the time to stop a suicidal man from jumping off a building? (True story.) I just want Cliff to worry about himself though. If the "Trouble Man" could go on a five year run where he's trouble free, he'd not only achieve all of his personal dreams but be too large for VH1. His reality show would have to be on NBC or CBS. A typical T.I. album is loaded with singles ready to blow and "Paperwork" is no exception, the latest of which is the Tommy Brown produced "New National Anthem" with Skylar Grey crooning the hook. Obviously some of the sentiments are going to have to be cleaned up - like when he says "What the f#@% you know about being a black man in America?" He's clearly inspired by the shooting of Trayvon Martin though, and the song would be timely even if it had been recorded two years ago given the shooting of Michael Brown this summer shows that history seems (unfortunately) doomed to repeat itself. The song that generated the most buzz to date though is the DJ Mustard produced "No Mediocre" but for unintentional reasons - he became embroiled in a feud with Azealia Banks and his protege on the song Iggy Azalea became embroiled in a feud with Nicki Minaj. The latter two have stated that the media took their alleged beef out of context, but I haven't heard of Ms. Banks apologizing to Tip or vice versa. Regardless it's the kind of buzz that Mr. Harris can ACTUALLY use - it beats the kind he gets for being sent to jail on weapons charges or back to the pen again for violating his probation."

Akrobatik :: Built to Last :: Akrobatik MC
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Built to Last] The title of "Built to Last" is both an affirmation and a reminder of Boston-based emcee Akrobatik's presence in hip-hop. It's possible some people had forgotten about Ak, but six years is a fairly long time to go between albums, and that's how long it has been since "Absolute Value" dropped. That's not to say Ak hasn't been busy in the interim - he was lecturing on the college circuit, dropping singles, performing and dealing with some medical issues (more on that in a minute) but for some people if you don't have a new album in stores you haven't been doing anything. It's a fallacy of the music industry in general and fickle hip-hop blogs in particular - everyone is so focused on "the next big thing" it's easy to skip the little things that are just as important and more worthwhile. It's 2014 so even the term "in stores" needs redefinition, as these days a physical presence on a shelf seems unnecessary - occasionally even antiquated. Artists continue to embrace a direct-to-consumer model of marketing, bypassing the middle man and keeping more of the earnings from the hard work they put into their music in the process. "Built to Last" is built to succeed with this in mind, put out directly by Ak through his own Bandcamp imprint, making it easy for consumers to choose between a physical or a digital copy of his music. For a couple dollars more Ak will even personally autograph the CD before he drops it in the mail to you. If that's not your thing, or you just don't need a hard copy to hold in your hand, the entire album is available for $10. To promote the new album and to remind people that Akrobatik is still a factor in hip-hop, Ak dropped a "Built to Last" video with a post-apocalyptic feel. Zombies seem to be staggering toward or past Ak at every turn, and Ak scavenges for supplies in deserted homes and eerily vacant parking garages. "

MarQ Spekt and Blockhead :: JustPlayWitIt :: HiPNOTT Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[JustPlayWitIt]"MarQ Spekt's career spans decades. He started out as a battle rapper in Philadelphia in the 90s before being signed to Subverse Records in 2000. That label folded before he could release an album, but he did put out work with as part of the Broady Champs in 2005 and Invizzibl Men in 2008. In 2011 he put out "Machete Vision," entirely produced by Kno of the Cunninglynguists. His latest album, "JustPlayWitIt," is entirely produced by Blockhead, who has previously worked with Aesop Rock and Illogic. (For those not familiar with HiPNOTT Records, it is the label run by indie rap blog It is an interesting state of affairs when blogs are running labels.) Spekt's battle rap roots are all over this album. It's one big aural assault, with Spekt taking out anyone in his path, and especially other rappers. You wouldn't want to call Spekt a conscious rapper, but he does deserve credit for mixing in some genuine knowledge amongst his verbal beatdowns. A lot of "JustPlayWitIt" is boasting and smack-talking, but there are also some insightful rhymes. MarQ Spekt's aggression is balanced by Blockhead, who makes "JustPlayWitIt" the record it is. Blockhead has an ability to mix interesting and often melancholy music with hard-hitting beats. No matter if he's sampling mourning pianos, or sitars, or lumbering upright bass, he always lays fat beats underneath it. Most importantly, Blockhead adds color to Spekt's often monochrome delivery. Like Aesop Rock, Spekt is an intricate rapper with a flat delivery, which pairs excellently with Blockhead's melodic beats. I had a problem with Spekt's rhymes, and it is the same problem I have with all battle rappers: Fourteen tracks of someone calling people names is a lot to take, especially when they use the second-person "you" so often. It's hard not to take it personally when someone is saying they will destroy "you." I don't mean to come off as over-sensitive or whiney, but I don't like being yelled at, especially when I'm listening to music."

Saigon :: G.S.N.T.3. - The Troubled Times of Brian Carenard :: Squid Ink Squad Records
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[G.S.N.T.3.]"One of the main representatives of the 'mixtape rappers' era, Saigon had to wait an eternity to release his proper debut album. A little more over three years later he's already presenting the third installment of what now has to be called the "Greatest Story Never Told" series. Subtitled "The Troubled Times of Brian Carenard," it's the first one without the support of Suburban Noize Records. Nevertheless "the motherfucking saga continues," one might be tempted to quote N.W.A, were it not for Saigon's image consciousness. His story - or the story he'd like to tell - is essentially that of the bad guy gone good, so quoting the bigggest icons of gangster rap seems inappropriate. And yet N.W.A and their generation packed a lot of political dynamite into their music, and if Saigon has a problem with street orientated rap, he likely has today's unreflected glorification of the fast life in mind. He's on a mission and like any proselyte doesn't hesitate to let you know about his conversion "from gangster to good guy." Detractors are easily found and named (Jimmy Iovine apparently conclusively being identified as the industry fall guy). Just Blaze, while not actively involved in the production, encourages him in the album intro to stick to his vision, and Saigon complies instantly with "Come Alive," orchestrated by DJ Corbett as a typical contempo rap/pop combo. If this crosses over, it's a Trojan Horse rolling right into the courtyard of the record industry."

Smoke DZA & 183rd :: Ringside EP :: DatPiff
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Ringside EP] "Every now and then the RapReviews staff will debate the merits of what belongs in the Back to the Lab category. Though the ostensible purpose of its existence is to look back at albums that either (A.) got released before the site was founded or (B.) got overlooked due to the overwhelming flood of hip-hop releases, it also serves as a calendar line in the sand that generally extends 12-18 months back from the current date of a review's publication. We can't easily lump a review of something on the shelf for a year in with new albums that just hit retail, unless the album has somehow been updated or re-released in a new format. This happens occasionally with mixtapes, especially if they get an "official" release. That's not going to happen with the "Ringside EP." First and foremost the self-confessed pro wrestling fan DZA goes all out with the WWE (or WWE owned) samples on this five track DatPiff download. It's possible that the up-and-coming rapper could afford to pay the sample clearance fees - but would you really put down that kind of cheddar for just eleven minutes of music? That's the second reason this will never see an official release - it's a clear bit of time sensitive fandom that was intended to drop the same day as WrestleMania 29, though according to DP's own records it came out a day later. The real nail in the coffin of an official release (and this pun is definitely intended) is the opening track "The Streak.""

Vince Staples :: Hell Can Wait :: ARTium/Def Jam
as reviewed by Clara Wang

[Hell Can Wait] They say that you are a product of your environment. "Hell Can Wait" embodies this; Vince Staples' debut EP evokes a kid coming into his own, with the difficulties of the ghetto underlying the regular trappings of ho's and bankrolls. As a young man who grew up in the meccas of West Coast rap, his music harkens to socially-conscious thug themes reminiscent of Tupac and N.W.A. Here's a gangbanger who's been in the game a minute and fully realizes the damage he causes. The smooth production strikes a neat balance with Staples' cool delivery, over bare-bones West Coast beats and screeching sirens. It's more minimalistic than Staples' previous mixtapes, implying a serious tone. There's no comedy here - just a cold-blooded high school dropout. Even the EP's requisite "turn-up" single of "65 Hunnid" serves up a killer's viewpoint with its killer hook. Is he jumping aboard the protest following Ferguson regarding police brutality? Yes, "Hands Up," (produced by No I.D.) as a single does seem suspect to the trend. But there is more genuineness in the work when the EP is taken as a whole with Staples' persona as a "sensitive" gangster-rapper. He's simply noting the fear that people who dress a certain way and live in certain areas have for the police. The timing of the single, which dropped less than a month after the Ferguson shootings, is more a reaction to the event than following a fad. In fact, Staples scalds the thirsty hordes amassing Twitter fans off the heat of a tragic incident, with lines like, "This is all a part of Huey P and Bobby prediction, making profit off of violence they arousing attention."The repetition in "Blue Suede" reminds us of the monotonous grind of what a gangsta's life is really like - all that sacrifice when "all I wanted was that blue suede." Suddenly he's just the boy in Langston Hughes's story who turned to the fast life because there was no kind Mrs. Bates."

Ray West & O.C. :: Ray's Cafe :: Red Apples 45/Fat Beats
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Ray's Cafe]"From emo to cloud rap, from drug to weirdo rap, a lot of more recent rap music has been about capturing moods, however vaguely or precisely. "Ray's Cafe" excels at mood-capturing. And although some would argue that it has little in common with contemporary sounds, it's actually a very modern approach to the kind of rap that refers to a time in the past. Producer Ray West has already been part of Diggin' In The Crates side projects like "LUV NY" and "Everything's Berri," and "Ray's Cafe" strengthens the D.I.T.C. affiliation by joining him with Omar Credle. The recently released deluxe CD edition essentially combines the original "Ray's Cafe" vinyl from January and the upcoming "Ray's Cafe - The Afterhours EP." O.C. plays the part of maître d', making the listener feel welcome at this virtual cafe - that could be situated in any major city but is of course particularly easily imaginable in New York. It's a sanctuary for kindred souls who enjoy a moderate amount of shots and smokes accompanied by charming companionship and good music. It's a scenery typically populated with blues and jazz musicians and an environment a rapper primarily has to prove himself in. There are a number of rappers who could emcee an evening of refined entertaiment or just an informal afterhours, although all need to bow before the late Guru, who hosted a total of four "Jazzmatazz" projects. But do not mistake "Ray's Cafe" for "Jazzmatazz." It's two guys creating the illusion of a band playing for a gathering of cool cats and hot foxes - canned applause included. At the same time O.C. does his best to establish the place as a metaphor for a universal refuge from the hustle and bustle of the streets where you can check your cares at the door. Sounds like an advertising slogan for any hip joint, but in O.C.'s words it becomes more."
Editorial: Did Charles Barkley Go Too Far Or Not Far Enough?

Editorial courtesy of Steve 'Flash' Juon.

[Charles Barkley via Wikimedia Commons]Call him Chuck, Sir Charles, "The Round Mound of Rebound" or Mr. Barkley - but you can't ever call him quiet. Charles Barkley has never been shy about espousing his opinion on a variety of topics on or off the basketball court, and on Monday the 11-time NBA All-Star stepped into the spotlight again while talking about Russell Wilson, quarterback for the NFL champion Seattle Seahawks.

The remarks by Mr. Barkley were actually made in an interview with Philadelphia radio host Anthony Garano last Thursday, but it took a few days for what he said to be transcribed and make the rounds - quickly going viral yesterday morning. Barkley's remarks specifically address the notion that (allegedly) Wilson's teammates on the Seahawks think he's "not black enough." Below you can hear and read how Sir Charles responds to the concept in general.

"When you're black, you have to deal with so much crap in your life from other black people. It's a dirty, dark secret; I'm glad it's coming out. It comes out every few years. I wrote a big chapter in my book about it to be honest with you. I said, you know, when young black kids, you know, when they do well in school, the loser kids tell them, 'Oh, you're acting white.' The kids who speak intelligently (right) they tell them, 'You're acting white.'

"So it's a dirty, dark secret in the black community. One of the reasons we're never going to be successful as a whole, because of other black people. And for some reason we are brainwashed to think, if you're not a thug or an idiot, you're not black enough. If you go to school, make good grades, speak intelligent, and don't break the law, you're not a good black person. And it's a dirty, dark secret, Anthony."

When Mr. Barkley says this "comes out every few years" he's on point - it's only a secret when people forget that it has already been said before. Hip-Hop frequently revisits the issue lyrically, addressing the so-called "crab mentality" best understood by visualizing a barrel full of crabs as a metaphor. Any of the crabs individually could escape the boiling pot of water and drawn butter that is their fate, but any crab that gets to the top is pulled down by the other crabs before it can escape - so no crab can succeed even though they could ALL get out. Charles views the idea of "not being black enough" as a perfect example of the crab mentality.

"It's crabs in a barrel. The thing that's hap- we're the only race that tell people if you don't have street cred, with like, that means you been arrested - like that's a compliment. We're the only ethnic group who say, 'Hey, if you go to jail, it gives you street cred.' It's just typical BS that goes on when you're black, man."

The online reaction to the remarks from Charles Barkley was all over the map. Some critics say that Barkley is fulfilling the "Uncle Tom" role by portraying himself as better than other black athletes, artists, and even his peers growing up in Alabama - drawing favorable media attention and the rewards of being a sports analyst while he's sitting "in the house." Barkley has admitted his faults on many occasions, drawing attention in the 1990's for his "I am not a role model" stance, and admits he has gambled away more money in a day than most of us will probably see in a lifetime. His honesty about his flaws doesn't make him above reproach, but it does give him the concrete to stand on to offer criticism about what it means to be "black enough."

It doesn't seem on the surface that Barkley thinks he's better than anybody, and for those praising him for the chutzpah to say what he did, it's accepted that Barkley knows a thing or two about having to rise to the top despite numerous doubters and naysayers. Criticism about his large frame dogged him dating all the way back to his college days at Auburn, despite setting all kinds of school and SEC conference records as a player. Even when Barkley was part of the "Dream Team" that won Olympic gold, people still dogged Barkley that he never won "the big one" by playing for a NBA championship team. Barkley has never avoided the spotlight, or the accusations that he himself was a "thug" on the basketball court, letting his success on and off the court speak for him. Barkley never let a crab pull him down, and he's had no shortage of haters in his life who have tried.

The debate about whether being "black enough" is a "crabs in a barrel" mentality will continue long after the furor over Sir Charles' remarks has died down. Hip-Hop walks both sides of the debate musically every year, with parents and educators accusing rappers of glorifying nihilism and violence, while artists themselves point out (1.) They're just articulating the reality of their environment (2.) It sells better than "nerdy" or "intellectual" rap and (3.) The critics are themselves serving as crabs in a barrel by not letting them succeed. I've always sided with the first amendment as the answer, as I believe that even the most unsavory of sentiments from an artist has value, even if that value is in the debate it sparks.

That's the best thing Charles Barkley has done - reignite the debate about cultural values in a way that can extend far beyond his community. There's a "crab mentality" in all kinds of environments, and any school kid anywhere who has ever been called a "nerd" or a "teacher's pet" knows a little something about it - even a farm kid like me. I think I'll let Alfonso Ribeiro have the final word on this debate for now though, as his character Carlton made a rather eloquent statement about whether or not he was "black enough" on an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

The Hip-Hop Shop #297 - They Say What Is Lost Is Now Found

It's time for another new edition of The Hip-Hop Shop. Episode #297 is called They Say What Is Lost Is Now Found. Today's podsafe show features new music from Bishop Nehru, Illusion-Z, Nametag and DJ JS-1 among others! Follow us @RapReviews so you never miss a new show.

Download Here (right click to save)

Tracks featured this week:

* Bishop Nehru - They Say (Bishy Bish)
* Serge Severe - The Vigil
* Illusion-Z - Lost & Found
* Nametag - iTag
* Nikki Jean f/ Ab Soul - Champagne Water
* DJ JS-1 f/ Breeze Brewin, Homeboy Sandman, Kyle Rapps - 110 Percent
* Ray Rizzle - One Day
* BioLogic f/ Flow Patrol - Dreams Made From Dust

@IAmDJCrank Presents Show and Prove: The Mixtape, Vol. 1 (@HiPNOTT)

DJ Crank Presents Show and Prove: The Mixtape, Vol. 1

HiPNOTT: HiPNOTT Records' resident deejay, DJ Crank presents our new monthly mixtape, Show and Prove. This new mixtape series is designed to showcase the up and coming Hip Hop artist and give a spotlight to the independent artists that the HiPNOTT camp is feeling right now.

Audio: @Jean1us + Lauren Liparulo - "Shine" (prod. Centric) @Dub_MD

Audio: Jeanius + Lauren Liparulo - "Shine" (prod. Centric)

Dub: Jeanius (Jean Exantus) drops his newly released single “Shine”, produced by label mate Centric, featuring R&B artist Lauren Liparulo, who takes the lead on the chorus. Jeanius was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He eventually relocated to Japan where he started off as a DJ/MC known as MC Hook. Jeanius has since then relocated back to the east coast, where he joined forces with Free At Last Music Group in 2012.

Video: @ATLienWorkshop @JarrenBenton - "Monster"

Video: ATLien Workshop f/ Jarren Benton - "Monster"

A.W.: ATLien Workshop video for 'Monster' featuring Jarren Benton and Ness Lee from the ‘We’ve Landed’ EP!

Video: @DaMafia6ix - "Lock'm N Da Trunk" (@DJPaulKOM)

Video: Da Mafia 6ix - "Lock'm N Da Trunk"

Dove: Da Mafia 6ix is gearing up for the release of Hear Sum Evil this week on October 30, and today they unveil the official video for "Lock'm N Da Trunk" ft. DJ Zirk!

Audio: @CuzOHBlack - "Addiction + Grind (VOl 17 & 18)"

Audio: CuzOH - "Addiction + Grind (VOl 17 & 18)"


VOL 18

Audio: @taelor_gray @WesPen_215 @MrSwoope "Soul Glow" (@sohhPR)

Audio: Wes Pendleton & Taelor Gray / Middle Clash "Soul Glow"

Josh: Middle Clash "Soul Glow" is the fifth song in a series of six weekly tracks from Wes Pendleton and Taelor Gray. Wes Pendleton may be a familiar name from his soul laden beat-tape work with Illect Recordings and Mellow Orange. He's joined forces with emcee Taelor Gray to form Middle Clash.

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Welcome to for the week of October 28th, 2014!! Please like us on Facebook and shop Amazon through RapReviews so we can bring you new material every week. This week we have TEN new items for you! Check out Black Milk's "If There's a Hell Below," Blu's "Good to Be Home," an editorial on Charles Barkley, Steve 'Flash' Juon's The Hip-Hop Shop #297, Liotta's "Rap Music Heaven Is An Emcee's Hell," Logic's "Under Pressure," Rapsody's "The Beauty and the Beast," The Regiment x Random's "A Gamer's Anthem," Run the Jewels' "Run the Jewels 2" (our featured review) amd Emanuel Wallace's The (W)rap Up for October 21, 2014.

Be sure to check the RapReviews newsfeed for the latest news and updates. Subscribe to the newsfeed via your browser for daily updates like Cornell's Adler Hip-Hop Archive. also recommends The SmackDown RunDown from the AngryMarks Podcast Network. We appreciate your support and welcome any feedback you have. Thanks for visiting!!

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