If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Xzibit's "Napalm" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Xzibit :: Napalm
Open Bar Entertainment
Author: Matt Jost
"Xzibit is a rap icon. Not because he's a gold and platinum recording artist or because he gave the 'rapper' archetype an unusually personable face on one of MTV's most famous shows. No, the iconic figure that is Xzibit emerges whenever he opens his mouth and raps. His voice and flow are a symbol of rap's vigor and vitality. There are a million and one people who rap. But Xzibit IS rap. You know it when you hear it.Having an advantage like that invariably leads to hubris. At times X to the Z's flow has been mightier than his pen, but he's never been all bark and no bite. The relevance implied by his voice was ever so often matched by his lyrics. In terms of what he represents, he has shown consistence across underground favorites "At the Speed of Life" and "40 Dayz & 40 Nightz," commercial victories "Restless" and "Man vs Machine," to later works. While many of his peers, especially on the West Coast, have opted for a self-explanatory, well-selling rap persona, he's simply Xzibit, the guy who corners and confronts you, the listener, to teach you a lesson - verbally. As a rapper X is always in action, with or without the lights and the cameras. He's the quintessential rap agitator who has come to shake things up, every song a Cali quake. The danger in all this is that the artist eventually becomes his own stereotype, following a seemingly failsafe formula. A déjà vu is inevitable when considering the album titles and respective opening tracks of "Napalm" and "Weapons of Mass Destruction" ("State of the Union"/"State of Hip Hop vs. Xzibit"). Is Xzibit in 2012 simply another old dog unwilling to learn new tricks?"
3:33 :: In the Middle of Infinity :: Parallel Thought LTD/Alpha Pup
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"What is 3:33 exactly? That's far from an easy question to answer, though Patrick Taylor gave it a good go last year. The answer is at first glance deceptively simple - it's a group promoted by Parallel Thought, when he's not making albums with Del the Funky Homosapien and Tame One. That conclusion is quickly unraveled once one delves into a 3:33 album. One line from the press release comes close to scratching the surface of the experience: "3:33's time seemingly repeats itself in an infinite unfolding of madness and confusion." Key emphasis on the words "infinite" and "madness" here. It soon dawns on the listener that 3:33 is a group slash entity that are a little bit "weird" and tend to operate only in the theatre of the instrumental. These explanations are only going to get more convoluted as we go along. I would give you direct audio samples were they available, but since this album doesn't come out until Devil's Night (a perhaps purposeful coincidence) there are no clips on Parallel Thought's YouTube channel. On the other hand if you play his remix of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, then try to imagine it without lyrics, you'd start to scratch the surface of what's happening here. The artwork for this album and the previous 3:33 release suggest a Lovecraftian mythology, and on this one in particular it looks as though you'd be walking into a building that's half organic and half electronic - with tentacles growing out all sides and one ominous eye overlooking the landscape. You have to stare at the picture for a while as you listen to almost completely unnamed tracks like "ITMOI-6" and allow yourself to sink into the murky depths. This is an album to listen to in the dark. It might even help if you're high."
MC Wood-Z :: Shakespeare's Bastard Child :: Demilo/MC Wood-Z
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"MC Wood-Z took notice of our UK Hip-Hop Month here at RapReviews.com and offered to send us "Shakespeare's Bastard Child" as a free iTunes download for review. I took him up on the offer, but the offer was apparently only valid in Euros, because American buyers could not cash it in. The samples of his music intrigued me to the point that I wasn't about to take no for an answer though, so I cashed in some unused iTunes credit I got for my birthday. The reason I bring this up is that the person who gave it to me was from Canada, and he originally bought it for a friend in the UK, but HE couldn't use it since the funds came from a non-UK source. It's amazing that music is a global product these days yet there are so many backward local restrictions on how you buy it. If this review leaves you inclined to buy I recommend the Amazon purchase link because it doesn't seem to be region restricted and is a relatively cheap $8.99. After a few spins of this 40 minute album I'd have to characterize Demilo's as somewhere between "understated" and "minimalistic." As Wood-Z's accent is a little thicker than some of his British contemporaries, I actually find this helpful as a listener, not to mention it distinguishes him from those who drench their verbiage in so much melody the rap gets subsumed in it. Songs like "Under Pressure" achieve the high tempo energy of their title as a result, as you can literally feel Wood-Z's systolic and diastolic raising second by second. "Lost in rage/should have never rattled my cage/You can see it in my eyes, I'm colder than the ice age." It makes him a worthy contemporary of Klashnekoff in terms of his verbally intense delivery. "
MellowHype :: Numbers :: Odd Future
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"MellowHype is back. It doesn't feel like they went anywhere though. It's been a year between the official physical release of "BlackenedWhite," but the Odd Future collective itself stays chronically releasing side projects, solo albums, digital downloads and can be seen every week on their TV show Loiter Squad. There exists a small but increasing chance that spin-offs like Mellow could become a victim OF the Hype, if fans of the crew decide there's too much content and scale back their interest. It happened to No Limit Records in the 1990's. It happened to UFC within the last year. So far the Odd Future train shows no sign of slowing down, but they should send out a signal to the next station and make sure the tracks are all straight and level. Speaking of tracks, "Numbers" is a typical MellowHype release with producer Left Brain producing the majority of the 16 tracks. The lone exceptions to this rule are Tyler, the Creator co-producing "666" featuring Mike G, Michael Enzinger co-producing "P2" featuring Earl Sweatshirt, and Hodgy Beats co-producing "Astro" featuring Frank Ocean. The latter is one of the most impressive tracks on the album.Frank Ocean's profession on the chorus that he'll "wear a yellow tux at the Grammys and rock out with my cock out" is pure superstar, and his chance to solo the outro of the song backs it up. Much like previous MellowHype releases though, the rest of the album is a mixed bag. There's no denying that Left Brain is a talented producer and that Hodgy is ever-improving as a lyricist and vocalist, but right or wrong one gets the feeling that there are no filters on that talent. Put it this way - a creative person might come up with a hundred songs in a given day. Ten of them might be good, and one of them might be sheer genius. Some days they might all be duds. Over time though with a good friend/editor to help filter out the bad from the good, a whole album worth of good material will accumulate. "
Rebel MC : Black Meaning Good :: Desire Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"Although he had already rapped about the now epic 'EastEnders' soap opera as early as 1987 (in a typically gimmicky mid-'80s rap tune that went absolutely nowhere), the British audience took proper notice of Michael West when he was emceeing dancey, acid house-inspired tunes by production team Double Trouble in 1989. His appearances on the singles "Just Keep Rockin'" and "Street Tuff," who both charted, served as warning examples for the supporting role British rappers had no desire to be relegated to. Both songs were recycled for his 1990 debut "Rebel Music," which couldn't dispel the impression that Rebel MC was a lightweight able to fulfill the rap needs of the pop/dance world, but not those of the hip-hop movement. One year later Rebel MC took everyone by surprise with the release of "Black Meaning Good." Cleverly paraphrasing the classic Run-D.M.C. bon-mot "Not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good," Rebel MC had nothing less than a linguistic reform in mind when he attacked the fact that in English (and not only there) black is often synonymous with bad. "Black Meaning Good," the combative album opener, doesn't probe the etymology of terms like black market or black plague and therefore jumps to conclusions linguists would likely reject, but it still reveals a fundamental pattern in our society that 'people of color' (as the Americans say) are subject to. A pattern which rap, more than most other genres of entertainment, is fit to address. Even if Rebel MC could be accused of jumping on the political rap bandwagon, he still made a noteworthy statement none of his American peers made this explicitly. "
Rizzle Kicks :: Stereo Typical :: Island/Universal Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"We continue UK Hip-Hop Month at RapReviews with this review of Rizzle Kicks. The duo of Jordan 'Rizzle' Stephens and Harley 'Sylvester' Alexander-Sule are something like a phenomenon, having sold over a million singles and 300K albums despite only releasing their first CD "Stereo Typical" a year ago. These two young and hip Brighton artists met at a time when they were studying for careers outside the rap field, but their mutual love of the arts became apparent when collaborating on a mixtape Jordan was working on where Harley sang on a few tracks. They adopted a football (to the yanks that's soccer) nickname Jordan had from childhood as their group name and officially became a group in 2008. Now in their early and mid 20's, it took Rizzle a few years of kicking around songs in their bedroom studios and releasing amateur videos on YouTube to build up their buzz. "Down With the Trumpets" was an early success online, pairing their verbals with an infectious Dag Nabbit and Mike Spencer beat. If you heard the instrumental and mistook it for a song by Cypress Hill or Frost that would be natural - these trumpets have a very Latin music salsafied feel. At over 12 million hits and counting, it would be fair to say Rizzle Kicks went viral, which makes it somewhat surprising to me as the auteur of this review that they aren't better known in North America. It would be like Psy's "Gangnam Style" going viral, but only being known in Korea, Thailand and the Phillipines. Their rapid ascent on the UK scene has also brought out their share of haters, and even though only 2% of the total feedback to the song on YT is dislikes, that still amounts to over a thousand people flipping a collective middle finger their way. I can't pick out anything about the rhymes or beats to hate on though. "
Zion I :: ShadowBoxing :: Gold Dust Media
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Oakland hip-hop duo Zion I have been making music together for fifteen years. The duo has always been a balancing act: producer AmpLive balances hip-hop and electronic music with his beats, and rapper Zumbi balances conscious rap and party rap in his rhymes. Both men are new fathers who are struggling to reconcile their role as parents to their vocation as musicians and artists. The "ShadowBoxing" in the title refers to Tai Chi, which Zumbi has been using to center himself and help him put away the negative thoughts and practices that he doesn't want to teach his child. While you might think this would lead them to an introspective record, the end product is actually closer to "The Takeover," where they tried to mesh rap and dance music. AmpLive has been working with electronic beats for a few years now, and on "ShadowBoxing" he dives in head-first. From the sound of things, he's been hanging out at the same dance clubs as the Black Eyed Peas, and the results don't always work. "Re-Load" has Zumbi rapping over a beat that sounds like euro-trance circa 1999. He drops lines like "In the center of the dance floor/Sink in the ocean/My brother got the dank dog/Purple emotion/And I'ma keep soaking/Deep in the mystery." He recovers his footing on the bouncing "Human Being," which features throbbing synths over a snapping beat, erupting into drum n bass on the chorus. "Trapped Out" has a solid beat with electronic flourishes, and Zumbi raps about his struggles to stay on the righteous path. The title track features a pop-locking electro beat with some of the album's fiercest rhymes. "Whydaze" sounds like an indie pop song, with Zumbi singing his rhymes."
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