Monday April 23, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of October 2, 2012
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, October 9th, 2012 at 12:00PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

If you missed any of the new reviews this past week, including Lecrae's "Gravity" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

[Gravity] Lecrae :: Gravity
Reach Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"The name of Lecrae's sixth commercial album implies right from the start that it will be heavy. If you had said the same thing about any of his prior albums it would certainly be true. Lecrae has at times taken his Christian message beyond "preachy" and straight into "proselytizing." One verse from his album "After the Music Stops" took it into downright dangerous territory, as the faith-minded rapper vowed he'd walk through the heart of the Middle East to convert non-believers: "If the violence doesn't cease then at least the deceased/might know Jesus as their savior as their body hit the streets." Even if you don't pray to Allah, that's borderline offensive, and in many Islamic countries would get you jailed (or worse) for crimes against the state. I'll take your belief seriously, whatever it might be, if you aren't (1.) forcing it on me or anyone else and (2.) not proclaiming all other beliefs are inferior. In one fell swoop he seemed to do both.I had largely been ignoring Lecrae in the interim between then and now - aware of his existance but not really interested in his seeming intolerance toward other faiths. Over the last month though the good word spread about "Gravity," and many who thought Lecrae was narrowcasting to the Bible Belt were surprised to see his album on the top of secular Billboard charts. To be truly fair and open-minded, I had to give Lecrae a second chance and find out if he had earned this newfound fame. A little background research revealed he had done a free album called "Church Clothes" with popular mixtape king Don Cannon, and that lead me to believe that Lecrae was really trying to revamp his image. The thing that haunts most Christian rappers isn't the Holy Ghost - it's the idea that all they do is spit chapter and verse like a pastor on Sunday except in rhyme form. To go mainstream Lecrae would have to go hard on the beats and the bars and show the world he can hang with any emcee."

Devine Carama :: It Was Rewritten ::
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[It Was Rewritten] "I've been asked by many people over the years to reconsider my views on Nas' "It Was Written." I'm not sure it was wrong to have high expectations of the album considering it was preceded by an all-time hip-hop masterpiece, but in hindsight I was too quick to dismiss his latest album. My issue with the CD at the time was due to Nas exploring a more commercial sound with the Trackmasters, and as such I may not have given the writtens their fair due. The album has aged far better than many contemporary releases though, and without totally rewriting my review (at least here) I'll say there are no shortage of 21st century albums that can't hold a candle to it. One person has already beaten me to rewriting "It Was Written" though - an unsigned underground rapper from Lexington, Kentucky named Devine Carama. Before going any further cease your preconceived notions about what a rapper from Kentucky would or should sound like - you're wrong. It wasn't just Carama's audacity in paying homage to Nas by redoing his whole CD that caught my attention - it was the fact his vocal tone and flow are closer to AZ than to Ace Hood. In fact if you listened to the clip of "White Girl Lost" below before reading this paragraph and I had told you Carama was from Queensbridge, you'd have accepted the premise without a second thought about it."

Example :: Playing in the Shadows :: Ministry of Sound
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Playing in the Shadows]"Everybody knows that the United Kingdom has a one of a kind music scene that blessed Western culture with plenty of icons from The Beatles to David Bowie. It has also produced new styles in virtually every form of popular music. One particular aspect of contemporary British music however is often overlooked. You can dance to it. Or let's put it this way - in the UK there's a higher chance that you can dance to new music than in comparable countries. That goes also and in particular for indie music. British bands are just more likely to surmise, as the Arctic Monkeys song goes, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor." Across the decades there have been a number of bands and individuals that, involuntarily or not, sporadically or regularly, made 'dance music' (in the broadest sense possible), sometimes early in their career, sometimes later. Depeche Mode, New Order, Colourbox, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Big Audio Dynamite, Happy Mondays, Jesus Jones, Saint Etienne, Everything But The Girl, Stereolab, Bloc Party, Hot Chip, etc. Add influential electronic/dance artists with alternative/rock sensibilities (Aphex Twin, J. Saul Kane, Norman Cook, The Prodigy, Utah Saints, Four Tet), several generations of successful electro pop outfits, popular fusion genres like acid jazz, big beat and trip-hop, cutting-edge vanguards like drum-n-bass and grime, and you have a climate where 'dance' is much less an expletive than in the US."

Klashnekoff :: FTLT (F*** The Long Talk) :: S.O.N. Entertainment
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[FTLT (F*** The Long Talk)]"Early on "FTLT" Darren Kandler b/k/a Klashnekoff makes his opinion of the current scene in London abundantly clear through the satirical skit above mocking the things music buyers say these days. Not only is the person asking "What happened to him man?" ignorant about albums like "Back to the Sagas," he's clearly aping whatever happens to be trendy as opposed to making a truly informed purchase. When Klashnekoff was hot (the listener's past tense not mine) he bought Klashnekoff; now that dubstep is the hot sound he buys dubstep. Klashnekoff is not a rapper about trends though. The fact he'd drop the bar "Back for a +Slice+ like +Kimbo+" on the song "Do It Like" should tell you that, but if not let's make it perfectly that Kah-lash-knee-cough gives a fuck NOT if you don't like his sound or style. He's going to do his own thing, damn the consequences. The album has no shortage of moments telling you to eff the eff off. The funny thing about that though is it's exactly what I like about Klashnekoff. His ruggedly independent spirit is not only a middle finger to what's trendy in Europe, it's a middle finger to the world as a whole. He's not going to make trap music, or gangster boogie, or bounce, or underground NYC rap, or any other hip-hop style you can come up with for him to do. If sampling Japanese techno funk was in vogue, he'd do the exact opposite. Klashnekoff won't be told what kind of rap artist to be, which means I'm perfectly fine with being told to go take a flying leap, because the result is he'll do a "Let Me Clear My Throat" freestyle in 2012 even though that song hasn't been cool (pun intended) for 16 years and the "900 Number" loop is in fact older than that. What you're getting on "FTLT," an album that purposefully puts a curse word in its title (then censors it), is the raw unvarnished Darren Kandler. He's the guy in the room who is hip because he's NOT trendy. "

Phi-Life Cypher :: Millenium Metaphors :: Jazz Fudge Recordings
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Millenium Metaphors]"In 2008 RapReviews writer Jay Soul was so thrilled by the Olympic Summer Games he used them to describe the historic event in hip-hop that was Dr. Dre's "The Chronic." I had my reservations about the analogy, last but not least because I had become sceptical of athletic exploits as too many champions had turned out to be cheaters, and I feared the same from the two poster boys Jay mentioned by name in his piece, Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. Watching the 2012 Olympics in London reminded me of the misgivings I had four years prior. I witnessed Bolt repeat his Beijing triumph, winning gold in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay, while Phelps made a remarkable return after a series of setbacks. Still their wins didn't excite me, not because I wouldn't like these guys or thought they were expected to win anyway or had already had their turn or suspect them to be doping offenders, but because I find the measure by which they're judged simply too plain. I miss the higher ambition in a competition that only determines who swims, rows, cycles, or runs the fastest, who lifts the most weight, throws martial objects the farthest or jumps the longest or highest. I couldn't even muster interest for the marathon, despite having finished the 42km a couple of times myself. Instead I was intrigued by competitions I had so far ignored because they somehow seemed... well, unmanly. The feats displayed by artistic and rhythmic gymnasts were simply out of this world to my untrained eye. While endurance, speed and strength are essential to all athletic performances, there are sports that also require an extra degree of technique, strategy, concentration, timing, coordination, will power, collaboration, courage, aesthetic understanding, etc. In those sports we realize the potential of our species."

Snowgoons :: Snowgoons Dynasty :: Goon MuSick/Babygrande Records
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Snowgoons Dynasty]"Snowgoons albums increasingly remind me, in terms of their line-up, of the Gathering of the Juggalos. You've got the hosts who have been there from day one, the numerous affiliates they've accumulated over the years, the veterans they reserved a special place in their hearts and on their stage/in their studio for, and finally the nobodies and the newcomers. Their latest features two generations of Eminem affiliates, rappers from three different platinum acts, underground artists from New York, Boston, Detroit, New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, L.A. and the Bay, indie mainstays such as Blaq Poet and Main Flow, etc. The Snowgoons literally got things covered. It's safe to say that they made more connects than any other producer/s in the last ten years. They count "Snowgoons Dynasty" as their fifth album since their '07 debut, but a quick glance at their discography shows that they've had an even busier schedule. Only this year for instance they also put out a project exclusively with German rappers entitled "Terroristen Volk." Jay-Z once envisioned a rap "Dynasty," and while the Roc name is as illustrious as ever, the family ties weren't always the strongest. The Snowgoons handle things differently, to a point where every rapper who is featured on one of their tracks momentarily becomes a Snowgoon himself and thus part of the Snowgoons dynasty. "

Substantial :: Home Is Where the Art Is :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed by Zach 'Goose' Gase

[Home Is Where the Art Is] "Over the past few years has there been any label that has been dropping quality albums as frequently as Mello Music Group? In 2012 the "other" MMG has already released critical darlings such as Oddisee's "People Hear What They See" and O.C. and Apollo Brown's "Trophies." Well you can now add long-time QN5 affiliate, Substantial to the crew's ever-growing impressive list of releases, with his third LP, "Home Is Where the Art Is." MMG's newest signee, who hails from Baltimore, fits right in with the crew with his technical proficiency over a fresh take of boom bap production. "Home Is Where the Art Is," which is inspired by Substantial's hometown of Baltimore, is the rapper's first full-length LP since 2008's "Sacrifice," which earned the rapper acclaim and airtime on MTV U. Those familiar with Substantial, know that rap fans will be hard pressed to find a rapper who's as gifted technically, with flawless cadences and a seemingly infinite breath control. Think, Pharaohe Monch meets Black Thought, but with a baritone vocal delivery. The best example of his rhyming ability would be the aptly titled, "Mr. Consistent," where Substantial executes some of the illest rhyme patterns I've heard in 2012. Another example of Substantial's best skills as a rapper is his unique take on braggadocio. "Mr. Consistent," "Shit on My Lawn," and lead single "Check My Resume" echo the same sentiments as his 2008 track, "That Damn Good," which effortlessly combines battle raps and humor. "Check My Resume," which is laced by MMG honcho, Oddisee, shows Stan's skills to formulate battle raps focused on a specific topic; in this case he uses several occupational allusions to display how dope of an emcee he is. "

Us3 :: Broadway & 52nd :: Blue Note Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Pete T.

[Broadway & 52nd]"Hip-Hop has always been reverent of jazz, yet oftentimes rap producers use jazz sampling as mere means to a new end. The masters from Pete Rock to Buckwild to Madlib thrive on breathing new life into dusty samples, making them fresh if not unrecognizable from their source material. There has always been a group of rappers and producers from the other side of the pond, though, that takes their jazz a little more seriously. Guru exposed MC Solaar, among the first of the jazz-obsessed European artists to make waves in the U.S., on his groundbreaking "Jazzmatazz" album in 1993, and more recently entities such as Jazz Liberatorz have captured ears by keeping their jazz pure and mostly unadulterated despite the presence of hip hop percussion and rap vocals. Us3 was never really a group so much as a rotating stable of contributors to British producer Geoff Wilkinson's vision, and after the runaway success of their 1993 debut LP "Hand on the Torch," spurred by the inescapable Herbie Hancock-sampling "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)," they toured extensively but never fully reassembled in the studio. On the full-length 1997 follow-up "Broadway & 52nd," the formula remains largely the sameŚlike on "Jazzmatazz," sampling and live instrumentation are synthesized with a hip hop blueprint that manages to balance both genres pretty seamlessly. As many groups have displayed over the years, jazz and rap are natural complements, and Wilkinson goes easy on the bass and sub-rattling percussion of his peers in order to emphasize the raw elements of jazz. Wilkinson also had the great fortune of a green light to excavate the entire Blue Note catalog, essentially the wet dream of any hip hop producer. Others who raided Blue Note records had to do it carefully, sneakily, or chancily, and the iconic label's blessing is half the pleasure of the early Us3 albums. Still, Wilkinson's use of the samples is consistently brilliant, and the live soloing and vocals blended amongst the sometimes familiar yet still fresh samples makes for a reliable pleasure on each track."

Wretch 32 :: Wretchercise :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Wretchercise] "Wretch 32 is kind of a big deal in the UK. He came up in the London grime scene before moving in a more mainstream direction with his 2011 sophomore album, "Black and White." The change in sound worked for him, earning him a million album sales, several hit singles, and numerous awards including BET's Best International Act of 2012. "Wretchercise" is a collection of new tracks and freestyles to hold fans over until he can record a proper follow-up. Like Tinie Tempah, he makes club-friendly hip-hop that sounds as influenced by American R&B and hip-hop as British grime. The rough edges are smoothed out, the production is crisp and polished, and Wretch's flow is all smooth swagger. He's the kind of rapper who is so casual and effortless that it seems like he's not even trying. The first few times I listened to this mixtape I was ready to write him off as another lightweight artist putting style over substance. It was only after given the mixtape the proper attention that I realized that there is genuine skill beneath Wretch's flossing. Wretch comes across on this mixtape as an artist who has achieved success and found found out that it isn't all that it is cracked up to be. Money and the things it buys aren't as satisfying as he imagined them to be when he was young and hungry. This is a common realization by people who have fought their whole lives to gain material success; it ends up being a lot less fulfilling than it seemed like it would be from afar. This being a mixtape there is a tossed-off feel to some of the tracks, and you get the sense that Wretch isn't bringing his A-game to every song. Still, even the tossed-off tracks can be rewarding. Take the opener "Hold Me Back." Sure, it's a two-minute freestyle over an Evian Christ song, but the combination of the spooky beat and Wretch's cocky-yet-melancholy rhymes make for an incredible song. On "My Dreams" he raps over James Blake's "Wilheim Scream," using the haunting instrumental as a backdrop for his romantic raps.

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