There's nothing wrong with Havoc solo per se. We've reviewed both "The Kush" and "Hidden Files" and each has gotten somewhat above average scores, particularly on the beats. Oh wait - that IS what's wrong with Havoc solo. His biggest strength as one half of Mobb Deep has always been as producer. No doubt he's competent enough to rock his verses on any classic Mobb track, but when Prodigy was rapping over Havoc's beats was when things shined the brightest. "I get up in they ass/I'm all up in they face/I let 'em hear the drums/then let 'em feel the bass/It's the real... hip-hop/It's the real... hip-hop." That's probably the lyrical HIGH point of "H Is Back" given at one point he brags that his guns blow bigger than Dumbo. The track however is NICE. It's that trademark layered Mobb Deep sound, Queensbridge to the fullest, multiple layers of menacing synths and deadly melodies. At 2:28 in length this song doesn't stay on long enough to bring H back as describe, but I'm not sure sixteen more bars from Havoc would have helped the cause. I hope P comes home soon and the M-O, B-B is back together as they should be.
Chicago has long been a hotbed for Hip-Hop and Zoser is primed to be the next in line to become a part of the city’s storied lineage of great emcees. His latest album, which is his third overall, is Day 3: The Science and it features a jazzy blend of music, some lyrical dexterity and subject matters that have real depth and meaning. Zoser is laying his first seven albums out as separate days in a week, saying “the common thread is the fact that I am taking my career and life one day at a time. Growing and learning with each day.” Wanting to learn more about this dynamic artist I caught up with Zoser to find out about his musical background, which includes his father’s career as a jazz musician, the ways in which he feels positive thought can play an important role in our everyday lives, and the impact he hopes to have both on music and his local community.
The Black Vibes website is reporting that Baatin, famed as a member of popular rap group Slum Village, died yesterday. The passing of Baatin comes right as B had reunited with remaining SV members Elzhi and T3 to record "Villa Manifesto" for a September 22nd release date. SV had just released the single off that album "Cloud 9" with former Floetry member Marsha Ambrosius. Baatin a/k/a Titus Glover was previously diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression, all of which contributed to his previous leave of absence from the group. Talib Kweli had this to say on Twitter: "I'm at a loss right now. Hi-Tek was set to dj for Slum Village tonight. RIP Baatin. More influential than you can imagine. Slum Village forever." We'll bring you more details when they are available.
You may remember from the review of The Official Hip-Hop Trading Cards that the RR team was mystified as to why Caktuz..?13 would have a trading card. As it turns out we got a response to that question from none other than Caktuz..?13 himself, and we've reprinted it below.
A diamond in the rough, Caktuz..?13 is a witch’s brew of talent. An accomplished author by the age of 18, he wrote and illustrated his 1st graphic novel noir ‘Futprintz’ for The American Red Cross. As the 1st urban graphic novel focusing on AIDS Awareness, the book, was heavily distributed all over the US and reprinted many times after. Since then Cak..?13'z writing has advanced into screenplays, novels, animation, and storyboard production for commercial and theatrical scripts. Cak..?13 was commissioned by the legendary Melvin Van Peebles to illustrate the feature film adaption of his most recent movie Confessions OfA Ex Dufus Itchy-Footed Mutha. His 2009 induction into the The Official Hip Hop Tarading Card Company's 1st inaugural collection left hip hop fans & industry incumbants baffled as to why they would honor an indie artist whose never held a major deal...in short, "who is Caktuz..?13"..."why him?"
A political prisoner for a crime he did not commit, Caktuz..?13 gave 8 yrs. of his youth to an unforgiving prison system. Never defeated, only inspired, he has since become a rising indie recording artist on his own AMAS Multi-Media label, having worked with such artists as Bilal, dead prez, Boot Camp Clik, SA-RA, The Dey, Brand Nubian, M.O.P., Michael K Williams aka Omar from HBO's Emmy Nominated The Wire, & many more. The grandson of James Brown protege', early soul music legend Johnnie Scotton, Cak..?!3 is a Carolina blues man by blood. His 1st album, the critically acclaimed 2 Hevi 4 Heaven, set Caktuz..?13’z place in the industry as a musical and genre innovator. Creating his own ‘Carolina Bluez’ sound & weaving live performance art into his stage shows.
From music to gracing the Broadway stage with the legendary Melvin Van Peebles, his DRX performance art group raised the energy of the show. Donning the the Musical Director seat, Cak..?13 created & managed Wheat Bread Radio for the lifestyle brand Wheat Bread’s media division, as well as the release of it's 1st album, Bread Breaks Vol.1 & 2. An album executive produced and mixed by Cak..?13.
This country strange fruit is an award winning graphic illustrator/designer, working with virtually all the top designers, such as Ecko, Apple Bottoms, Parish, Timberland, Rocawear/Shady Ltd. Having laced celebs such as Wendy Williams, Queen Latifah, Spike Lee, Chris Brown, & Melvin Van Peebles with his work he has undeniably become heavily sought after by Hollywood. Many corporate clients, such as Smirnoff, DC Comics, TBS, Pepsi, Wal-Mart, have called on Cak..?13 by name.
His on air charisma landed him into the acting spotlight. Cak..?13 or his distinctive voice have appeared in a number of film and television efforts, including his mentor Melvin Van Peebles’ new film, The Eddie Black Story (formerly tittled Deceptz), the controversial semi-biopic on the infamous NYC street gang The Decepticons, & even more films in production now. All this and still more to come. Caktuz..?13 is the poster boy for a multi-media revolution.
RapReviews.com "Artist of the Decade" by Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania
I have, realising that this decade is nearly up, decided to start a series of special features. The aim is simple: to find out precisely who the "RapReviews.com Artist of the Decade" is. And reward them, of course. Expect everyone else to follow our lead.
Why start the process so early? Well, there is an awful lot to get through. We won't just limit it to the Artist. There will be Album, Producer, Song, Live Act... And that is just the RapReviews staff. We will also have an open public vote like last year – except a LOT bigger this time.
Whilst some will always complain that it won't compare to the 1990's, this has still been a very busy decade. It started off in a blaze of glory for The Neptunes, who dominated the charts in a near-Motown fashion. Then came the Nas/Jay-Z beef, which also ushered in the production careers of Kanye West and Just Blaze. Outkast went crazy, and went diamond. 50 Cent translated his mixtape success into astonishing sales figures and a run of hits that is practically unrivalled in rap. Kanye then launched his assault on the throne with a sequence of LP's that would impress almost anyone. Last year, Lil Wayne took his messiah persona and made history once more, whilst practically tearing up the rulebook. This is all without mentioning 99% of the rappers out there, plus the highest-selling hip hop MC of all time, Eminem.
But, dear Reader, establishing ONE artist/group/album that defines the decade, that DESERVES the crown, that we will look back on in years to come and think, "Yeah, that was a worthy choice..." – this is going to be a difficult process. It could even hinge on an album released before the end of 2009. Imagine if "Before I Self-Destruct" has five mega-hit singles and is a stonewall classic. Imagine that the "Blueprint 3" is as good as the original one! Imagine that "Relapse 2" is another "Marshall Mathers LP" or that Kanye completes his "College..." sequence in stunning style. Hell, what if Nas did an entire album full of J Dilla beats and called it "Dillmatic" or something? Imagine that...
This was the opening decade of a roller-coaster 21st century. I am the proudest of Brits, but without doubt, America has been turned upon its head, the epicentre of global drama. The highest-selling rapper was white, traditionally Caucasian sports such as golf and tennis have been dominated by black athletes and, most astonishingly of all, there is a Black President in the White House. Some of my closest family friends had their house swept away in the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, whilst the then-President Bush did nothing. You might think those to be clichés, but this is a decade that our children will ask us about. "Really, Dad? You remember 9/11? You were out in the streets celebrating Obama's victory? Where were you when Michael Jackson died? What the hell is an iPod? What music did you listen to back then?"
When they ask that final question, you had better be prepared.
Artist of the Decade - Common
It all started so well for Common. His decade begins with an absolute classic – "Like Water For Chocolate" – that was so good, it is probably, along with "Illmatic" and more than the other heavy-hitters, the biggest influence on me, full stop. But Common developed a worrying trend, with his pantheon always sequencing disappointing LP/great LP. That continued into this decade, and, as such, being a Common fan is a lot like being a Nas fan. You know you will always love him as an MC, but you had better be prepared for some disappointment. Couple that with his growing obsession with Hollywood, and it seems that a complete move away from hip hop, in all but name, might just happen.
"For now I appreciate this moment in time Ball-players and actors be knowing my rhymes..."
That line, from "The 6th Sense," was an unhealthy precursor to his career this decade. He seemed in awe that really famous people liked his music. Who the fuck cares? Nas knows that he influenced everyone, but he takes it in his stride. You almost get the feeling that if Common was ugly like the rest of us, he would progressed further as a rapper without the distraction of the silver screen and famous friends... Still, his voice – certainly one of the most naturally blessed voices in hip hop history – and his lyrics always tended to prevail. Let's look at his albums in the Noughties, with unofficial scores that have the benefit of hindsight...
"Like Water For Chocolate" (2000) Such a stunning effort from start to finish, if a touch long. Lyrically, it is exceptional. Vocally, perfect. The combination of an emerging J Dilla (then known as Jay Dee), Questlove, the Soulquarians, DJ Premier... Needless to say, the music was incredible. But, perhaps, more importantly, the subject matter was interesting. He stuck to his guns, and delivered "knowledge" – but not in a cloying, preachy way. There is just so much depth to this album, and, if truth be told, this is probably Common at the absolute peak of his powers. Rap doesn't get much better than this, and this is the album that Jay-Z referred to in "Moment of Clarity" when he said that truthfully, he would like to rhyme like Common Sense. (10/10)
Cool Songs: The Light, The 6th Sense, Geto Heaven, The Questions, Dooinit
"Electric Circus" (2002) Sometimes in music, the name of an album enters the rap dictionary, if you will. It can be a good thing, like "he was on that Ready to Die shit" – or it could, in the opposite sense, be more like an "oh dear, he has had an Electric Circus-moment". Needless to say, Common's hip hop fan base did NOT take kindly to this LP. Ironically, the hipster press liked it more. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, but there is no doubt that this was a disappointment. Musically, it signalled the end of the Soulquarians – it was all downhill from this moment on. Lyrically and conceptually, Common was, for want of a better phrase, led astray. It isn't a BAD album. It just didn't work very well. There is nothing wrong with an artist wanting to experiment, but be sure you can follow it through. (5.0/10)
Cool Songs: Come Close
"Be" (2005) After his "Electric Circus-moment" a lot of people thought that Common was finished. But, to his credit, Kanye West was not one of them. He took hold of his former idol and together, they modelled a comeback album based on "Illmatic." With nine beats from West himself, and two from J Dilla, this was a short burst of sunshine and clouds. It also, thank goodness, happened to be practically perfect in every way. Lyrically, heads were initially disappointed but actually, Common was fantastic – it just took a while to sink in. Musically, this may well be Kanye at his soulful best, and the result flies by. Although not as fascinating or deep as "Like Water For Chocolate," this album was probably much warmer, more accessible and, in the end, easy for ANYONE to like. (9.5/10)
Cool Songs: Pretty much the whole album
"Finding Forever" (2007) Artists like Common sometimes feel trapped by their success. After "Like Water..." – which was well-received critically and commercially – he tried to go completely the other way, and got bollocked. Then, after his return-to-form, he did the opposite. Common (and West) took the template of "Be" and, perhaps in fear of creating another "Electric Circus," just replicated it, almost to the letter. The end result is that, although it is a superficially likeable album with some good music and lyrics, it is, beneath the surface, a shallow, hollow even, and pale imitation of his previous effort. For an artist that trades in soulful, emotional music, this was empty, with Common on autopilot. Of course, the death of his close friend J Dilla could not have helped – and there were still a few moments of quality – but this was still a real disappointment to many. As another critic cleverly put it, this was a Be-minus. (5.5/10)
Cool Songs: The People, I Want You, Southside, The Game, So Far To Go
"Universal Mind Control" (2008) A shocking abomination of an album that started life as an EP, and should have stayed as such. At least with "Electric Circus" Common thought he was doing the right thing. With "UMC" goodness knows what was running through his head. It wasn't even enjoyable as a meaningless experience. It was a groupie sex moment from a rapper that wants to be an actor now. "Disappointing" doesn't even begin to cover it. (3.5/10)
Cool Songs: None
Notable Guest Appearances: "A Dream" (from Freedom Writers OST); "Love of My Life" (Erykah Badu); "Get Em High" (Kanye West); "My Way Home" (Kanye West)
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Hip-Hop Shop is the precursor to K4D every week on Sunday night. Episode 41 features new material from Mr. Dubblup, Soulico featuring Axum and Lyrics Born, the Brown Bag AllStars and more! If you would like to sponsor Hip-Hop Shop please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The Hip-Hop Shop is 100% podsafe so distribute to your friends and tell them to visit RapReviews.com!
* Brown Bag AllStars - Get Ready * iCon the Mic King f/ Awar - Fall From Grace * Mr. Dubblup - Dismiss Yourself * Pseudo Slang - Yes Doubt * Random - The Bailout * Ric Atari - Better Alone * Soulico f/ Axum & Lyrics Born - Put 'Em Up
Artist: Trick Daddy f/ Ice Berg, Murk Camp Title: Why They Jock Label: Dunk Ryders Records
The only single released so far from the upcoming "Finally Famous: Born a Thug Die a Thug," Trick Daddy is back to his roots as the gangster poet of Florida. "What do the future hold? Man I don't know/I just do it keep it hood, and clean it for the radio/Keep on my hater shades, blockin out they hater ways/And keep gettin paid while them broke haters hate." Without Trick Daddy there'd be no Flo Rida, no Plies and no Rick Ross - that's just real talk. Trick moved the Florida rap scene beyond Miami bass and brought a country grammar to rap even Nelly could envy. He may not be as wild as when he first started out but he hasn't gone soft either, and Mizzle Boy's track would fit "Thug Matrimony" or any other album in Trick's catalogue. That catalogue is owned by Slip-N-Slide though, so it will be interesting to see if Trick can push this single and album to mainstream exposure on a much smaller label. Like an old pair of Timbs, Trick Daddy never wears out and just keeps on stompin'.
I have a lot of respect for Streetz & Young Deuces. This group started making noise three years ago out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin - not traditionally a town known for hardcore hip-hop - and have milked every little bit of publicty in trades like The Source and Ozone to inch their way towards the mainstream. S&YD are not overnight celebrities by any stretch - they've hustled HARD and put out a lot of singles to radio and club DJ's to get known. Unfortunately as much as I respect their DIY hustle "I Got Mad Flavor" just doesn't represent their best work. Instead of relying on their own unique sound, producer Young Nova borrows a page from the playbook of GS Boyz and Soulja Boy - a page that should have been torn out and shredded. The drum beat sounds incredibly computerized and fake and Atari 2600 games have had better melodies. Rhyming "altar" and "oughta" annoys me too, as does the unfunny line "you got Clay Aiken money - yeah yo' shit not straight." It would actually be more clever to say "get your money straight like Elton John" and let people ponder the obvious contradiction, but unfortunately for S&YD there's nothing clever, amusing or noteworthy about their "Mad Flavor" here. That's a shame because this group has much more to offer.
Artist: Lil Boosie & Hurricane Title: Bad Azz Hurricane Label: Asylum Records
For a song that's only three minutes long to begin with, it's a shame that Lil Boosie and Hurricane waste the first 20 seconds with non-instrumental machismo that would have been more interesting to a beat. Speaking of beats, producer Gus (no first name or last name - just GUS) is competent here but by no means mind-blowing. His track treads the careful line between bounce, club and crunk without firmly commiting to any of them - keeping the melody to a few notes while adding enough extra layers of keyboard orchestration to keep it from becoming totally stale. The "money thang" here is nothing new though, nor is bragging about "canary and blue diamonds on me." Does anyone think there's a significant portion of today's "swagger" aritsts who are grossly out of touch with the real economy? If not they're just playing the stereotypical role the audience expects regardless of whether they have the wealth they're bragging on. Of the two featured here only Boosie has shown the potential to say and do more, but by sharing a track with Mr. Ay Bay Bay he seems to have been dragged down to the latter's mediocre and cliched level.