If you missed any of the new reviews last week, including Kendrick Lamar's "good kid, m.A.A.d city" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Kendrick Lamar :: good kid, m.A.A.d city
Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"At 25 he's fully arrived on the scene, flanked by his Black Hippy homies Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q. The only jealousy he has to worry about now is if they become envious of HIS success, because "Section.80" propelled him from "regional artist with a strong mixtape following" to "major label artist signed by Dr. Dre to Aftermath." Not only does that give Lamar distribution in every retail and digital outlet in North America, it gives Lamar the chance to work with Andre Young himself, who made two cameo appearances on his new album "good kid, m.A.A.d city" as well as giving it his seal of approval with an executive producer credit. For a young man from Compton who grew up idolizing Dre, it must feel like hitting the lottery. Maybe that's why he can afford a swimming pool full of liquor. The instrumental behind "Swimming Pools (Drank)" is one of the most hypnotic of 2012, which means T-Minus and Nikhil S. have handed crossover success to Mr. Lamar on a silver platter. Drinking songs tend to go down easy with the public anyway, pun intended, but even with the party vibe of the mellow song there's a surprising undercurrent of awareness about alcohol's negative side effects. It would be easy to get caught up in the sing-along chorus and miss it, but his opening verse talks about being influenced by peer pressure to abuse alcohol and his second verse refers to it as "poison." This song is a certified hit, but it's not a simpleminded one, which is what makes Kendrick Lamar such an appealing artist right now. He may be young and he may like to have fun, but he's also gotten depths of thoughtfulness that you don't have to dig deep for before they shine."
Casual :: Respect Game or Expect Flames :: Nature Sounds
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Casual is hands down the hardest member of the Hieroglyphics crew to write reviews about. Certain members of the gang fall into different molds - Del is the avant garde experimentalist, Pep Love is the slept on underground emcee, Souls of Mischief are those kids who formed a cool group you figured would break up someday - and happily they never did. Casual remains an anomaly though because you can't pin him to anything. Is he a great lyricist? Sometimes. Is he the thuggish ruggish member of the group? Sometimes. Is he fearless about trying the unconventional? Sometimes. He's a little of a lot of different things, never all one thing. Producing legend J. Rawls tries to use that to his advantage in crafting "Respect Game or Expect Flames." Aside from the expectation that various Hieroglyphics members will make cameos, he's got a pretty much blank slate on which to paint. And yes the Hieros are in the mix right from the lead track "Reign" featuring Pep Love and the title track featuring Del, but aside from one song with the Souls later on the rest of the album is wide open. That's why Casual can flip the script with "La Danse Du Fessie," loosely paying homage to the African dance style of Mapouka. The song's name translates to "the dance of the behind," and almost every hip-hop fan should be familiar with a little booty shakin'.The best line in the song may be when Casual boldly proclaims "Ay J, just pause, we don't need a hook/if I just gash they ass, be a sweeter look." J heeds the advice and the track keeps rolling, and you quickly get lost in the rolling melody and clapping claves. Casual's swagger is easily one of his best traits as an emcee, one which well befits his big booming voice. He titles a song "Surely, I'm Right" as thought it was even a question - listening to the track proves otherwise. "I'm from the rap marathon defcon triple six paragon terrordome era" quips Casual, noting his generational gap but still sounding menacing in the process."
Evian Christ :: Kings and Them :: Triangle Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"For decades the British have taken homegrown American music, put their own spin on it, and ended up creating something incredible. The Beatles took early rock n' roll music and ended up reinventing pop music, the Rolling Stones and Led Zepplin took the blues in totally new directions, and the Sex Pistols turned early Ramones singles into something much more menacing. Joshua Leary, aka Evian Christ, is doing the same thing, taking American street rap and giving it his own unique British spin. The Stones and Beatles pounded out their sound through playing clubs and recording at a relentless pace. In contrast, Leary is a university student messing around on his laptop. In fact, he said in an interview that his love of playing and watching soccer rivals his love of making music. The songs on "Kings and Them" were originally put on YouTube by Leary before he got a proper label deal. The low-key vibe of the EP is a product of this careless, organic approach. These songs aren't part of some huge statement Leary is trying to make. They are just some ideas he was fleshing out in between schoolwork and playing soccer with his friends. Like Clams Casino, Christ mashes together ambient music with street rap. There's elements of Bay Area mobb music, West Coast gangsta rap, screwed and chopped vocals, and Southern trap rap in his drum sounds and effects. Pneumatic hissing, snapping snares, and rattling hi-hats are all enveloped in layers of ambient melodies."
Plan B :: Ill Manors :: 679 Recordings/Atlantic
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"I went into "Ill Manors" with the preconception that it was an act of atonement for "The Defamation of Strickland Banks." After hitting big with a fictional drama told through lots soul music and a little bit of rap, it looked like a return to rap's and Ben Drew's stomping grounds. As it turns out, "Ill Manors" is not only that, it also actually trumps its predecessor in that it is accompanied by a feature film of the same name. Or rather, given filming budgets and workloads, it's the album that accompanies the movie. Acting gigs, smaller directorial ventures and last but not least the success of his sophomore effort enabled Drew to realize the project that had been in the works since before "Defamation." I haven't seen the film, so I can only speculate as to the degree the songs here correspond with the content of the film, but it would probably not be completely wrong to say that "Ill Manors" the album deals with the same issues as 'Ill Manors' the film, just moreso on a musical and poetical level than visually and verbally. Plan B zooms in on the pressure cooker that burst open just a little over a year ago when London and other cities were hit by a wave of civil unrest as adolescents were rioting and looting for several days in a row. A native East Ender himself, he paints a grim picture of the UK's deprived urban areas and its disenfranchised youth."
Razor :: Progression :: Hoodtapes.co.uk
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"As our UK monthat RapReviews winds to a close, I'm taking a moment to check out the free "Progression" mixtape from Northwest London's own Razor. He's been getting some accolades of late in the scene, including a nomination for Best Urban Act at the Exposure Music Awards, and he was featured on "The Hoods Got Talent" documentary. His PR people describe Razor this way: "Through his established blend of sincere tracks and heartfelt lyricism, Razor brings to light the difficulties of balancing these two lives." All of this could easily be hype and not heat, but his "Hometown" video has received over 20,000 views and nearly 270 likes with less than 10 dislikes. Seems to me there's more than just a publicist and a press kit behind Razor's success - he's making a genuine connection with the people he reaches and he's got a message far beyond the bling. It's dangerous to make such ballsy political statements when you want to appeal to the masses, but his words turn out to be exactly what an audience who finds substance lacking in mainstream rap are looking for. At the same time, Razor goes just about as far deep in the UK underground as I've dug at any point all month long. I don't recognize a single one of his guest artists - not their fault of course - but KD Blockmoney, Big Cakes, and Jamm Tyme may need the help of a publicist far more than Razor does. "Progression" is also a big album for a first time listener of Razor to digest, a free album clocking in at over 70 minutes and 21 tracks total (though you can throw out the "Intro" and "Outro" if you like). I would have preferred a shorter introduction, perhaps an EP or a 40 minute LP, but never mind my bollocks. Like most mixtapes there are no production notes, in part because the beats on many mixtapes are recycled, but also because when it's not sold at retail nobody thinks crediting everybody involved is that important. That's a shame because whether original or reused, I'd give a shoutout to a few people."
Robust :: Fillin in the Potholes :: Galapagos4
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"What do you do if you've got potholes in your lawn? Fill 'em in. In all seriousness though it's RapReviews who needs the bag of soil, because we've got an eight year gap of NOT covering Robust, and I personally want to apologize to the artist in question for that. Despite having an archive of thousands of reviews, Robust's 2004 Chicago classic "Potholes in Our Molecules" slipped through the cracks, and in the interim none of his other independent releases was covered either. "Fillin in the Potholes" is a spiritual sequel to that album that goes by far too fast at only 45 minutes long, getting off to a very fast start on the 2:22 long title track. The news snippets included in the song mock an epidemic of potholes on Chicago's city streets, but it's just a set-up for the metaphor of Robust's quest for success. "Yo I'm tired of potholes/my tires have got holes/drivin on the rocks, puttin fires to hot coals/bros been callin me back/gold just falls in my lap/roses grow too close to call, the laws of the track." His topic matter spans more than just his own quest for success. "Tortured Soul" is a frank portrait of poverty and failure with a note of hope weaved throughout yearning to rise above it all through mic skills. "Loop Dreams" is a song of lust, though he's got equal measure for hip-hop and the girls "under the moonlight at night when the freaks come out." He tries to break the mold of nostalgia tracks on "Remember When" with the words "This isn't just another beat for me to rap to/it's the feeling you once had, I bring you back to it." Now that's word. "
Seth Sentry :: This Was Tomorrow :: Intertia/High Score Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"If you're a fan of international hip-hop music, the online retail movement has been the best thing to ever happen to you. There was a time when you would have spent $20 BEFORE shipping on an album like Seth Sentry's "This Was Tomorrow" to get it all the way from Melbourne, Australia. Thankfully times have changed and it's now easy to purchase for $7.99 from Amazon.com. No currency translation, no global postage fees for the airfare, just a direct download to your PC or cloud storage. Pretty damn sweet if you ask me. Everybody who claims digital downloads have killed the music industry can take this Melbourne boot up their arse. Back to the music though. Why should you want to check out Seth Sentry and his "This Was Tomorrow" in the first place? Well you could take the word of their publicist, who says he debuted at #6 on the charts over there, or that he was the most talked about artist at some festival cleverly (or humorously) called "Fat As Butter." They've obviously got a vested interest in his success though, so you have to take their butter with a pat of salty vegemite. It's a little more convincing to look at the list of producers involved, a who's who for the scene when it comes to the other big names. Trials has produced for Drapht and Funkoars, Matik has produced for Bliss N Eso, and so on. He's got the right crew rollin'. More than that though, Seth's accent may be hands down the mildest Aussie you'll hear on the mic - almost like an actor from down under who comes to Hollywood and convincingly sounds like a U.S. resident."
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