Artist: Problem Title: I'm Toe Up Label: Universal Republic Records
There's a problem with "I'm Toe Up" right from the jump off, and it's not the sentiments expressed in the song. After all there's no shortage of people over 21 who know what it's like to get stupid off the drink and hit the dancefloor. The problem for Problem is his boy Disko's production work. On the one hand "I'm Toe Up" is catchy because it's immediately familiar. On the other it's about as creative as slapping two copies of MIMS "This Is Why I'm Hot" instrumental on the wheels of steel and doubling up the beat. This is no happy accident - he either intentionally jacked the track or went into the lab with the goal of imitating the song in mind. This one will probably get play for all the wrong reasons, but if they acknowledge the bite by doing a "This Is Why I'm Toe Up" remix with MIMS I might be cool with it in the end.
Artist: Brentley Willis Title: Southern Boi Label: Bout Dat Entertainment
Brentley is an r&b singer from Chicago by way of Texas who does the same kind of rhythmic singing that has made R. Kelly a bundle, and gave Montell Jordan a brief glimpse of fame back in the day. "Southern Boi" is a club jam that celebrates all things Southern. It feels a little late in the game to be singing about diamonds in your grill and candy painted rides - it's 2008, not 2005, right? Anthony "Tonye" Newsome mixes up some pop hip hop and studio tricks ala T-Pain. It's innocuous and mildly entertaining. It didn’t make me want to either dance or move to the South, but it didn't make me race for the skip button. He has a new album set to drop on May 6, so you'll probably be hearing more from this young singer soon, although after listening to the other tracks on his Myspace page, I think I'll be steering clear. "Southern Boi" is the best of the bunch.
Artist: Yung Ralph Title: I Work Hard Label: Universal Republic Records
There's nothing like working hard to get ahead to get your slice of daily bread, and Yung Ralph seems to have a firm grasp on the concept. Producer P-No rocks out the "Rockin Chair" sample with horns that give Ralph solid ground to stand on as he spits his traditional values. "I go hard when I'm writin my lyrics/Why you think the O.G.'s and grown folks feel me/Grew up bein broke so I'm careful with my money/Good advice and business sense, and I think big tummy." Ralph certainly seems to have his head screwed on right and his priorities straight. Other newcomers might cash that advance check and go buy a Bentley but I'm willing to wager Ralph invested his in a money market account and only drew the funds he needed for studio time. That kind of hard work almost always pays off in the long run, and this single should too.
Artist: Tigga Bounce Title: Stand Up Label: 2G Entertainment
Unless I missed something in "Keeping It Real 101" I never hear anybody talk about Winnie the Pooh when they mention the old school. Perhaps it's weak to admit Hundred Acre Wood sounded like a nice place to chill. If you get right down to it though a lot of hip-hop's cocky self-assured hip-hop bravado talks like Tigger, the brother with more BOUNCE to the ounce than any man or animal alive. BET's Big Tigger sullied the name to me becaue he was more Carlton Banks than Roger Troutman, but the self-produced Tigga Bounce is trying to bring it back to that old school rap. With his first single TB is professing his affection for a babe so bootylicious he has to "Stand Up" in her presence. It may be that TB was afraid he too would be perceived as a cartoon, because he loops a crunked out voice saying "GHETTO" behind the vocals for the entire instrumental. My advice to Tigga would be to embrace the funk and ignore the haters. He's no T-Pain as a singer and he's no Too $hort as a pimp, but everyone can relate when he says "I'm keepin it cool, cause you make me feel it, want to cut up/But if you keep on, you gon' make me have to pull that skirt up." Bounce Tigga Bounce Tigga, gi-gi-gi-geah.
Artist: Nyce Da Future f/ Kool G. Rap Title: Target Practice Label: Shake 'Em Down Music
It's a bit of a mystery who produced this track, but as far as I can determine the song comes from a Whoo Kid mixtape called "38 in the Head." What IS clear is that the producer flipped Beethoven's 9th Symphony, which is a dope move for two reasons - no sample clearance, and properly looped strings really energize a track. The song was already off to a hot start when Kool G. Rap unexpectedly showed up to spit bars. Even though it's nice to hear the legend rapping about the "Symphony" days Da Future is the star here: "Still got a boulder on my shoulder, I'm tryin to yank it/'Til these bullets'll make dirt be your new blanket." Sure it's a prototypical gun-toting machismo rap, but at least Nyce is trying to get nice and inject a little humor and wit into it. I'm not mad at the track and I'm willing to check for a future single to see if he's still Nyce.
It's refreshing to play an unsolicited single and hear something unpretentious and toe-tapping for a change. Ron Mills' produced the track, DJ Premier mixed it, and Nutrageous rapped snaps to it with his friend KL for the hell of it. You're not left with the impression they were trying to hit a homerun out of the park right off the bat, but the simple and effectively orchestrated keys were a good lead off single. In verse two guest star KL hits a sac fly to advance the runner to second: "Whether drunk or sober, I still spit spiffy/Love a hot beat and hate a rapper that's iffy." Batting third you might be expecting a big clean up power hitter behind him, but Nutrageous still drives a double to left to score the run. "Laid back like Snoop's perm as I ride through the Eastside/Still with my middle finger, fuck a damn peace sign!" It's not mind-blowing to be sure but it's not mind-numbingly stupid either. Congratulations to Nut for calling up a Screwball pitch that wasn't wild and scoring with this single.
Artist: Luch Million$ f/ Yung Ralph Title: I Got Flavor Label: Street Hustle Music Group
Luch Million$ is not lacking in confidence, as his MySpace page claims "over 5 million views" to date. Even though that could be five thousand people refreshing his page a thousand times each, let's assume the # is real and be suitably impressed. DJ Bedz certainly was as XM's own White Shadow featured "I Got Flavor" on a recent mixtape, but even though I respect Bedz' taste I'm borderline to drinking Haterade on this one. The chorus sounds like Chingy or Nelly decided to rent out saying "flav-URR" to any rapper who'd pay a small fee. Put that nonsense aside and the song is more nonsense. I'm sure somebody has used the line "I'm so high I got jet lag" before and sentiments like these are as tired as my sneakers: "Money is my mission, so I'm pissin on you broke niggaz/I peep game, I don't see you gold diggers." Lovely. I don't think Luch's swag is anything major, but if Bedz' sees potential in him I'll check his notebook for Marley Marl style future flavor. (See I can spit cornball shit too.)
Artist: Affiliate f/ J. Cardim, Sheek Louch Title: Dope Boy For Real Label: Flophouse Records
Maybe it's "not really hood" to suggest this to up-and-coming rappers in 2008, but I think it's time to stop worrying about being a dope boy for real when so many hot MC's wind up behind bars. If you legit hustled on street corners before being discovered, give that work up and hire a bodyguard, becaue the Rap Police will look to bust you for an unlicensed gun or even an ounce of purp. Do us all a favor and don't go out like T.I. or Lil Wayne. So much talent being pissed away on unnecessary charges, not to mention money that could be funneled back to the hood to do some good. Putting my bullshit rant aside "Dope Boy For Real" is the kind of song that will blaze up mixtapes this summer. J. Cardim's beat is exactly the heavy layered synth sound so favored on D-Block releases, and it's no coincidence Sheek Louch guests on the track. Affiliate's analogies may be a little cliche but they work in context: "I'm in the rental Coupe, clean plates, dirty roof/Headed to D-Block to break bread with Sheek Louch/Affiliate, yeah I post like Shaquille/And every nigga 'round me's a dope boy for real." Cardim's rap is unnecessary but doesn't hurt the track. You'll be hearing this one soon.
While some may have problems pronouncing his name (think Eighth Won), 8th W1’s goals are significantly less complicated. According to him he’s an emcee who does his best to make "good, honest, music." It’s as simple as that. The South Jersey native recently released lovemoneyandmusic and after seeing him perform at Crash Mansion on a bill that included two former Artists Of The Week, Homeboy Sandman and Kats, it was clear 8th W1 was in good company. Both his show and his album turned out to be great which is why I caught up with him this week to find out more about his music, why he creates it, and what brings out the angry little troll inside him.
These comments on www.yoraps.com caught me by surprise, and may be news to you the reader as well. Most of our readers are aware by now that Young Buck has been booted from the G-Unit itself, although his Ca$hville imprint is still being distributed by 50's label. Apparently 50 is less than impressed with Buck's business acumen though and made this statement during a radio appearance: "He lives like a drug dealer. When the artist spends excessively to the point where he doesn't actually have that money anymore, out of desperation he says whatever he can say to try and fix situations." He also denied rumors regarding Buck owing him money. "I never took a royalty check to recoup for anything. Yeah, he had tax trouble. I helped him like I helped everybody else." One wonders if Buck will want to continue to distribute Ca$hville through 50 when he's making seemingly humiliating statements about him on air.