"The sentiments of Bobby Ray Simmons on "Both of Us" are undoubtedly sincere, but as an entry point into reviewing "Strange Clouds," I'd like to take a moment to consider the context. The song is produced by Dr. Luke, who has produced some of the biggest Billboard smashes of the last five years. Even living in a rap bubble it would be DAMN hard to avoid songs like Kelly Clarkson's "My Life Would Suck Without You" and Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" entirely. The guest feature on "Both of Us" is Taylor Swift, who is herself one of the most successful country/pop singers of the last five years, having sold over 20 million albums, subsequently using her music success and good looks to launch forays into Hollywood acting. On the one hand, Bobby Ray is sincerely telling us that money and image don't matter. On the other hand, "Both of Us" is almost the most carefully cultivated single to promote an album one could conceive to achieve pop success. One could argue that taints his sincerity JUST a little bit. Now to be fair, carefully crafted or not, the song works. Dr. Luke and Taylor Swift are both successful for a reason, and B.o.B was already a rising star of rap without their help, so their contributions don't really elevate Bobby Ray to a higher level - they just make the lift rise faster. Bobby seems to have found his newfound fame and success a little overwhelming though, and the ostensible science fiction setting of "Strange Clouds" is his attempt to escape from "a fucked up reality" he's now trapped in. "
"Every rapper with a record deal and an album to sell has a story to tell, but some stories are better than others. 4two7 has one of the more compelling ones I've read on a one-sheet in a while - he suffered multiple seizures while in the studio finishing his album. When he arrived at the hospital and doctors took X-rays, they found he had a tumor in his brain, and three days later he had a craniotomy to remove it. That certainly adds a layer of depth to his hand drawn cover art for "Internal Dialogue," in which he's got a finger pointed at his head like a gun. On one hand, the light coming from the "barrel" of the gun could represent the knowledge he shoots. On the other hand, you could say his body was his own worst enemy - nearly taking his own life without him ever having to catch a bullet to the head - stray or otherwise. The good news is that 4two7 made a full recovery for major surgery, and was able to put the finishing touches on this album after he recovered - otherwise we'd be reviewing this posthumously and that'd be a damn shame. It's also clear it hasn't affected his joie de vivre, as colorful bass driven songs like the EAT Machine produced "Butta On Ya Muffintop" show that 4two7 can take something people usually think of as a fashion faux pas and celebrate it as something wonderful."
"BeOND is one-third of SoCal rap group Acid Reign, rapping alongside Olmeca and Gajah. Acid Reign have a new full length dropping soon, and both Gajah and BeOND have solo projects coming out in the meantime. “Everythingz Backwardz” features 15 tracks of underground SoCal hip-hop. Production is handled by Knox Stedy, Broken Finguz, Kush For Real, and Remy, and it is solid throughout. The beats range from funky boom bap on “Born Bad,” Lex Luger-stye synths on “Change” and “Mo' Money,” and sampled loops on “Moment of Truth” and “Silence Is Golden.” BeOND honed his craft at Project Blowed open mics,the same scene that gave birth to old school revivalists Jurassic 5. His flow has some of that freestyle battle rap style, as well as the sing-songy approach of Chali 2na and crew. At his best, like on “Props,” BeOND has a deliberate, verbose flow similar to Del Tha Funky Homosapien. BeOND doesn't have Del's lyrical skills, however. For most of the album he goes for a smart-ass persona that he doesn't pull off."
Devin the Dude :: The Dude :: Rap-A-Lot Records ** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series ** as reviewed by Mike Baber
"If you're reading this, chances are you're already familiar enough with Devin the Dude to know what to expect from one of his solo albums. Often billed as "your favorite rapper's favorite rapper," Devin has made his career rapping about some of life's simple pleasures and everyday problems with his laid-back, almost lazy delivery, aided by smoking massive amounts of "coffee." Despite making records for nearly two decades, he has failed to achieve widespread mainstream success, but his refusal to sell out is part of what has made him so endearing to fans over the years. "The Dude" marks a turning point in Devin's career, as he shifted his focus from group acts such as Odd Squad and Facemob to pursuing a solo career, and his debut album only confirms his consistency as an emcee. Longtime listeners will already be familiar with a number of the tracks, but more recent fans will find that little has changed since 1998, as "The Dude" exemplifies Devin's laid-back outlook on life that has come to characterize his style. The southern vibes continue on "Don't Wait," as the deep bassline, crisp drum loop, and high-pitched synths on the chorus are reminiscent of a UGK track. But while the song has a slightly more aggressive feel than the rest of the album, Devin chills back out on "Do What You Wanna Do," as he raps about the importance of enjoying life and making your own decisions, rather than letting others dictate what you do, over gliding synths and laid back drums. The lighthearted feel disappears, though, on "Alright," as Devin takes on a more somber mindset and spits an introspective second verse on life and death."
"MCA mixed "the Bass Ale with the Guinness Stout." Method Man "the green with the chocolate." Young Jeezy "the Grey Goose with the cranberry juice." Andre the Giant "the hydro with the cocoa bud." MC Ren "the blunt with some motherfuckin' malt liquor." Twista "the sour diesel with the kush." Jayo Felony "the weed with the leak leak." Pimp C "the wine with the lean." Wiz Khalifa "the OG with the pizzurp." Paul Wall "the Sprite with this sizzurp." Snoop Dogg "that Moët White Star with them orange juices." Yukmouth "the hashis with the backyard boogie" and "the baking soda with the china white." Gucci Mane "the soda with the cola" and "the Cristal with the Powerade." That much is clear - rap is quite apt at mixing different substances. Gangrene combine Russia's national drink with an Amazonian psychoactive and purgative fluid in the title of their 2012 album, but primarily "Vodka & Ayahuasca" stands for the cocktail that is Gangrene itself, the collaboration of West Coast beat fiends and sporadic rap spitters The Alchemist and Oh No. This is the second go-round for Gangrene, and while 2010's "Gutter Water" had the same set-up (including DJ Romes on the cut), "Vodka & Ayahuasca" is clearly superior. It's darker, dirtier, heavier, trippier. "
J. Dubb :: The EP: Game Related :: Relentless Records ** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series ** as reviewed by Matt Jost
"Not to create the impression that I'm cyber-stalking dude, but this is my third review of the same rapper in as many weeks. An artist who has lingered in the shadows of local rap for decades and who personally might not see the point in receiving lukewarm reviews years after the fact. Well, such is RapReviews.com. We take rap seriously like that. The rapper formerly known as Kool Rock Jay made a re-entry into the game in 1995 as J. Dubb. High profile appearances were still ahead of him (on several Ant Banks compilations and the "Straight Outta Compton - 10th Anniversary Tribute"), but the "Game Related" EP sported some prominent cameos itself. Spice 1 and Too $hort join Jay on the opening "Trouble," which is notable for $hort's verse that catches him in the middle of a quarrel with the Luniz and Dru Down. Short Dog's also on the hook to "I'm a Player," which sounds a lot like Ant Banks but is actually by fellow Oakland producer Terry T. Ant Banks is still a key figure here as he mixed the entire EP at Oakland City Studios in - Atlanta, GA, at the time Too $hort's adopted home. Despite having been around (notably to Fresno), J. Dubb continued to call Oakland his musical home. On "Where it's At" him and Father Dom mellow out to a smooth groove laid down by a backing band that includes Oakland saxophonist J. Spencer, who released a couple of hip-hop influenced jazz albums on Motown. "
"The biggest asset and biggest criticism of mc chris over the years are one in the same - a distinctively high pitched and arguable UBER-nerdy vocal tone. It certainly lends itself well to doing voiceover work for cartoons, but it causes his detractors to overlook the dope rhyme writing ability and a flow he's spent years polishing to a professional level. That's not the only problem though - when you have a voice that sounds like a pre-pubescent boy and you DO work in cartoons, you tend to attract an audience of children whether you like it or not. I've seen it first hand. Even though Aqua Teen Hunger Force is rated M for mature, tons of tots show up for his concerts and rap along word for word as he takes us all to 6-1-2 Wharf Avenue. I'm sure all of the children in the audience had parental supervision, but whether he wanted to or not, mc chris couldn't change up the lyrics of his songs to be age appropriate to a minority of his audience at the club that night. He may have a youthful voice, but the majority of his paying audience is adults who relate to his topics - Star Wars, Tarantino movies, Harry Potter, et cetera. It's worth noting that we addressed in the "Race Wars" review that a lot of these topics USED to be considered nerdy, but as they've gone mainstream so has the appeal of mc chris' music, leading to songs like "Hoodie Ninja" being featured in car commercials. "
Nerd Ferguson :: Bitch, Where's My Sandwich: The Album :: NerdFerg.com as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"I can't help but crack a smile listening to the opening of "Warning: Don't Sign Me," and it's not because of the self-effacing song title. The joy I feel is from the extended instrumental sampling of Bob James' "Nautilus," one of the best breaks of all time, used liberally in hip-hop classics ranging from Eric B. & Rakim's "Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em" to Ghostface Killah's "Daytona 500." (It gets a little overshadowed by Commodores and Pleasure samples in the former, but you can still hear it clear as bell on every wordless chorus.) Nerd Ferg may be a young cat, but he's got an old soul. He's definitely got an old school flair for braggadocio on the song too, and there's another reason to smile - he IS a comedian on the bars. He manages to mock both Rick Ross ("I'm not a star? Somebody lied") and pop music ("Remember me like Teairra Mari or Ciara's career") and call out fellow rappers from his city ("And that wasn't subliminal, but just in case you thought it was/Papoose chill with all that shit you talkin cuz") without fear. He spits over-the-top absurd notions about wasting advance money from any label that's crazy enough to give him a deal, and then says "Who knew a nerd could be so grimy?" I like this kid."
Wordsmith :: King Noah :: Wordsmith Music as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"This album is literally a dedication to Wordsmith's recently born song Kingston Noah, with an intro before the title track explaining that numerological coincidences abounded when he was brought forth on the Earth. Even without those coincidences, any father will tell you that bringing a son or daughter into the world is a life changing event, putting all of your priorities into a totally different focus. It hasn't changed Wordsmith's focus on being a musician though - it just enhanced it. Wordsmith is already an unconventional emcee who purposefully decided to ignore modern day trends, "Bridging the Gap" to days gone by to record an album with hip-hop legend Chubb Rock. There's nothing nihilistic or excessively indulgent about Wordsmith - he's all about the "Essence of Life." Wordsmith's mission is not just to elevate hip-hop for himself and his son, but to connect with like-minded artists so they can ALL lead the movement. "This is a revolution in music right now - all that garbage that's out there is about to be abolished" quips Wordsmith on "Generation X," before turning the mic over to peers Substantial, K. Sparks, CuzOH! Black and J The S. Other quality collaborations are not hard to find - Gods'illa and Junclassic are on the "Rhymesayer Revival Remix," Kontact joins CuzOH! Black for "Globetrotters" and "Voice of the World," and Phil Ade and Steven Drakes have an "Eye for the Spotlight" among other collaborations. "
To celebrate making Willamette Week's Best New Band list, TOPE decided to let go a free song from his recent album, UNTIL THE NEXT TIME WE MEET. TOPE pairs crew members Prem (Living Proof) and Epp (TxE) with the prolofic young producer Stewart Villain to bring you the Summer-Champagne-Anthem, "LIFE OF THE PARTY." Last week TOPE become the first solo hip hop artist to ever place top 10 in Willamette Week's Best New Band poll, coming in at number 6!
“Pass Dat” featuring King Sun is the second official single off of Fokis’ upcoming "Vintage Album", Produced by HipHipHeredia (Fokis' Older Brother). King Sun was one of the first and most successful Afrocentric hip-hop artists in the early 90's, he was a force on and off the mic. His Gold Selling album Righteous But Ruthless featured the smash single "Be Black" which solidified his place in Hip-Hop history.
The Vintage album is scheduled for release this summer and features Hip-Hop legends Kurtis Blow, DMC, Grandmaster Caz, Brand Nubian, Kool G. Rap, Spoonie Gee, King T, MC Eiht, Mic Geronimo, N.O.R.E. and more. Created with two purposes in mind, “The Vintage Album” was intended not only to salute Hip-Hop’s pioneers but also to re-create the sound and feel of the early 80’s through the mid 90’s.
The Beastie Boys were my Beatles. My father would preach the gospel of the Fab 5 while me, too young to give a shit, wanted to wear baggy clothing and be MCA. You'd think I wanted to be Mike D due to the '4th letter in the alphabet' connection, but nope. Yauch was cooler to me.
MCA was no bullshit. The only one of the three that I would be afraid of. Yauch was my Lennon. Leave the bubblegum to McCartney. Here's the real shit.
"I can blow you away or you could ride with me." -MCA, Paul Revere
My world stopped when a friend of mine sent me a text, telling me MCA passed away. I've lost people. It's always a different reaction based on the closeness of the relationship. I've never met Adam Yauch, but it felt like I lost a family member. We never shook hands, or greeted each other, but I've spent hundreds of hours, over the course of 20 plus years, with him and the Beastie Boys in my headphones.
No offense to, but I wasn't one of those tweeting how they were going to spend their entire weekend listening to the Beastie Boys, in memory of MCA. I've been listening to them consistently since the late eighties. Not a week goes by that I don't have one craving to listen to a Beastie Boys song.
I knew I had to create something for him. I didn't want to record the typical tribute song. MCA wasn't typical and deserves better. I wanted to take it back to my childhood. The childhood they had impacted so heavily. I wanted to take it back to me, rapping Pass The Mic in a comb in front of a mirror in my bedroom, hat backwards, in my father's work jacket. These were the moments that drove me to become an artist. And MCA helped me steer.
Video: X-Excutions & X-Men Continue to Roc for Raida
Members of the X-Men and X-Ecutioners recently reunited to celebrate the life of Roc Raida at the "Roc for Raida" Listening Party at Scratch DJ Academy in New York City. DJs Sean C, DJ Diamond (Diamond Jay), Mista Sinista, DJ Precision, Rob Swift, and Boogie Blind gathered to reminisce about Roc Raida and showcase routines for an intimate crowd.