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The (W)rap Up - Week of September 18, 2012
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 at 1:30PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

If you missed any of the new reviews this past week, including the G.O.O.D. Music "Cruel Summer" compilation, then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

[G.O.O.D Music Presents Cruel Summer]Kanye West :: G.O.O.D Music Presents Cruel Summer
Def Jam

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"It's a cruel (cruel) cruel summer, leaving me here on my own." No? Well for a child of the 1980's, the words "Cruel Summer" will always bring Bananarama to mind first. If Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music compilation takes off, then "Cruel Summer" will evoke memories of 2012 for a whole new generation, and it won't even matter if they've seen his movie of the same name (starring Kid Cudi) or not. Curiously there's no song by that name featured in either one, but there's no shortage of cruelty found on songs like his hit "Mercy." A trio of emcees join Kanyeezy to express the heights of materialism the song is named after - the expensive Lamborghini Murciélago car. On one hand you have to admire the sheer hubris of Kanye and comrades one-percenting like only they can, or at the very least, like only he can while the rest are spending out of their advance. (Watch for that rebound on the recoup Chainz, it's gonna hurt like ground and pound from Rampage.) And as long as we're being fair, that beat by Lifted et al is hypnotic as is the Super Beagle chatter of the chorus. The flipside of that coin is that Kanye seems increasingly out of touch with the very consumers that are buying his music. He's always been gassed off his own ego, but with the stack of greenbacks he's standing on these days, any liftoff from that point will take him far beyond stratospheric heights. He's probably 30 miles up now. If the goal of Kanye's album was to flaunt the Benjamins he and his crew burn to light their cigars, there's no doubt "Cruel Summer" will feel like cruelty to anybody scraping two nickels together between thumb and forefinger. Pusha T's "I wouldn't piss on that nigga with Grand Marnier" on "New God Flow" epitomizes their excess excellently. At some point I expected West to rap about using Sevruga caviar as eye black to play flag football, swimming in bathtubs filled with Dom Perignon, and wiping his ass with original drafts of the Constitution."

Aesop Rock :: Skelethon :: Rhymesayer Entertainment
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

"In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that this is the first Aesop Rock album I've ever listened to. I know he's from my hometown, I know he's been making records since the late nineties, and I know critics love him. I'm a fan of his old production partner Blockhead, and I'm a fan of his old label Definitive Jux and his current label Rhymesayers. I've even heard him featured on countless rap albums, lending his distinct voice to tracks by everyone from Percee P to Blueprint to El-P to Atmosphere to Illogic to Tame One. I've heard of Aesop Rock and I've heard Aesop Rock. So why have I never bothered to actually listen to his music? The fact is Aesop Rock makes intimidating music. His raps are quick and dense, full of convoluted wordplay and references. He favors beats that are loud and disquieting. This isn't music to rock the party, get a club jumping, or provide a soundtrack for Friday night. Aesop's music is paranoid, insular, and unnerving. If your stereotypical rap party is a bunch of dudes in designer clothes smoking weed and drinking cognac with half-naked models in the VIP section of a swank club, "Skelethon" is two grad students on Ritalin chattering competing conspiracy theories in the kitchen of a dilapidated flat. Listening to his music is like reading a William Faulkner novel - you need CliffsNotes to understand what is going on."

DJ Vadim :: Don't Be Scared :: BBE Music
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Don't Be Scared] 
"British DJ/producer DJ Vadim has been around the world. He was born in Leningrad in the USSR, raised in London, and now splits his time between Berlin and New York. His music is equally diverse, combining elements of soul, electronica, reggae, and hip-hop. His latest record, "Don't Be Scared," was just released on his own BBE Music label, and sees Vadim incorporating dubstep and dancehall into his array of sounds. Things start off slow, with the mellow instrumental "Hide N' Seek." It's not the best hook to get a listener excited about the album, but perhaps Vadim is setting up his album like a DJ set, starting off slow and building up. Things pick up on the second track, "Lemon Haze." The album really kicks in on track three, "I'm Feeling U." Gregory Blackman's soulful voice is a nice compliment to Vadim's stuttering dubstep beat. Jazz Baily sings on "Lost My Love," and his voice is processed in a way that recalls Burial's work. Vadim uses a "less is more" philosophy on the track, limiting himself to a stuttering dubstep beat, some ambient noise, and a little bass. The empty spaces are filled with Baily's voice, and the end result is a beautifully sad song. Vadim switches things up on the boisterous "This DJ," sampling KRS-One. The song features booming dubstep bass and J-Man's hyperactive dancehall chatting. Unlike some of his younger counterparts, Vadim manages to make a banger without having all of the dials set to eleven, showing how subtlety and restraint can actually make a song better."

Oddisee :: People Hear What They See :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[People Hear What They See] 
"Leading up to the release of "People Hear What They See," Oddisee proposed that he only now felt ready to make a rap record of his own because he finally had, as he put it on a track from 2010, "something worth saying." Commenting on that now available release, the DMV representative carries on with the candor when he writes, 'All too often in Hip Hop, reality is limited to that of the artist's own, actual experiences. People Hear What They See is my attempt to liberate the MC from those constraints and allow reality to be penned other than my own. Listening to congressmen and lawyers converse on the steps of the supreme court inspired American Greed. Watching a couple argue over the phone in a bar inspired Maybes.' Honestly I was taken aback by that statement. Because when I listen to "People Hear What They See" I hear an MC who speaks from experience and says things that are congruent with the image that I have of Oddisee. Is he right then? Do people hear what they see? Is my perception of a 'rapper' someone who knows what he talks about because he's been through it himself? I know I'd be a fool to believe that, but maybe I still wish it were so, against better judgement. I could go off on a tangent here about certain subsets of rap, or about the genre's greatest artists being observers rather than participants. But I'd like to keep the focus on Oddisee and his in many ways exceptional effort. "

Phoenix Da Icefire :: The Quantum Leap :: PDI
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Quantum Leap] 
"RapReviews is officially scheduled to have another "UK Month" in October, but owing to the insistence of a persistent publicist, Phoenix Da Icefire just can't wait that long. His bio is the hard knock life story any rapper from a ward of New Orleans or a project of New York City could relate to, with the only difference being that story gets transplanted to a poor neighbourhood of East London. His father died in 2002 and he witnessed the death of a close friend when he was only 12, and these experiences both forced him into adulthood young and simultaneously fueled his ice hot rage to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of poverty to the heights of success. Now that we've got the roots out of the way, let's get to the rhythm and the reggae. Like so many of his brethern from the UK hip-hop scene, Phoenix has a pattern of speech and vocal inflection that mixes British and the West Indies. To the uninitiated, he's going to be a little hard to follow lyrically; even to the initiated it is at times a challenge. What works on his favor on "The Quantum Leap" though is that he's a storyteller, so if you follow the thread of the story to its conclusion on songs like "Tales of the Cobblestones" the words will make more sense in context."

Reef the Lost Cauze & Snowgoons :: Your Favorite MC :: F.U. Pay Me Records/Goon MuSick
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Your Favorite MC] 
"The high hopes I had for the 2011 M.O.P./Snowgoons collaboration "Sparta" weren't quite met. It felt as if Bill and Fame went for unspectacular backing tracks that would not detract from their performance. A year later I've come to the conclusion that the album falls right in line with all the other prized M.O.P. longplayers and I take it as proof that the Snowgoons, known for lining up legions of mic mercenaries on compilations, are able to service single rap acts with tailor-made beats. Arguably not even Boi-1da beats or Clams Casino instrumentals would detract from the fact that M.O.P. are in town, but no one can deny that both camps have an affinity for rap loud and insistent enough to bring down the walls of Jericho. Simultaneously with "Sparta" another full-length co-starring the Snowgoons was available, Reef the Lost Cauze's "Your Favorite MC." The Philly MC has been a fixture on Snowgoons albums since "German Lugers" and is certainly worthy of the preferential treatment. "Your Favorite MC" too is trademark Reef. After an anthemic intro defining the collaboration as nothing less than a "Brotherhood," he launches into "Fuck Rappers," essentially revisiting his "I Ain't No Rapper" sentiment from '08 (he prefers we refer to him as MC). It's what they do best, Reef projecting lyrical darts over a martial, dramatic beat straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster."

Rock Mecca :: Pirate Radio Star :: Rebel Vein Entertainment
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Pirate Radio Star] 
"Queens, NYC rapper Rock Mecca has been a staple of the RR newsfeed since 2011. We've gotten enough of his singles and videos in that time that I've actually memorized his Twitter handle just from seeing him so much. That's a compliment incidentally, not a complaint. In fact it caused me to check for him here and there, and to feature his songs on The Hip-Hop Shop when I heard something I liked. Rock Mecca was already off to a good start before I hit play on "Pirate Radio Star," and then he pleasantly surprised me again by having an intro/skit that I not only didn't hate but replayed a second time. It doesn't hurt that Rock and his producer sampled from a reggae classic - "Pirates Anthem" from Home T, Cocoa Tea and Shabba Ranks. You may not know you know it but old school hip-hop heads have heard this line before: "JUST BECAUSE WE PLAY WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT." This turns out to be a recurring theme for "Pirate Star Radio," as Rock Mecca fashions himself a Rastafari rebel illegally broadcasting his hip-hop music to the masses without FCC permission. Snippets from movies and TV shows play up this persona, while Rock describes himself as what you get "when an angel gets pregnant by The Devil - a rebel on another level" on songs like the Ralph Ellison inspired "Invisible Man Radio." Not many rappers have the cajones to brand themselves a cross between "Doctor Who, Doctor Doom (and) Doctor Strange" because they're afraid to sound like a nerd, but Mecca sounds like the hardest of Rocks when he does so."

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