Monday June 18, 2018

The (W)rap Up for 2012 - January [1 of 2]
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 4:00PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[TM:103 Hustlerz Ambition]Young Jeezy :: TM:103 Hustlerz Ambition
Def Jam Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

""What I Do (Just Like That)" is a statement of principles defining Young Jeezy's philosophy on "TM:103 Hustlerz Ambition" as well as any song could. The Atlanta all-star has a rap career dating back to 2005, where he first came to national attention as a member of Boyz N Da Hood, then very quickly eclipsed their fame on his solo debut "Thug Motivation 101." As his star rose into the sky like a cloud of marijuana smoke, fans came to know his raspy voice and unrepentant lifestyle well, flashing iced out jewelry and getting in trouble wherever he went. Showing out is nothing new, but as the title of 2008's "The Recession" acknowledges, it was somewhat contradictory to how most of his fan base was living. Since then he's been largely off the radar (police or otherwise) with "TM:103" being pushed back multiple times. Now that the album has finally arrived, any anticipation I felt has long since dropped off, right along with singles that he released before the album that are not included. If you don't buy the deluxe version of "TM:103" you won't get "Lose My Mind" or "Ballin" at all, which is especially irritating given they are two of his best songs since 2008 and feature Plies and Lil Wayne as guests respectively. It's shit like this that makes people buy the digital version on Amazon instead of physical compact discs, because none of the songs you wanted are left out."

Audible Doctor :: 2011: Year of the Audible Doctor Remix :: AMD Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon[2011: Year of the Audible Doctor Remix]

"This is an interesting twist on how to sell your work as a producer. Since Audible Doctor did a lot of remixes for different rappers throughout 2011, he's put together a free compilation of his best work that you can download at no charge. That makes sense - if he were to charge for them the rappers involved might be a little upset at not being cut in, and if he DID try to cut them in it might get too complicated to split up a small pie amongst 9 people. On the other hand if he sells an instrumental version of the album, all of the beats are his and he can collect 100% of the ducats. I like it. More producers should go that route. The free version certainly shows that Audible Doctor had an amazing year in 2011. He worked with a who's who selection of the underground's best rappers throughout the year, including the highly underrated Homeboy Sandman, who gets a "Not Pop" remix. Since there are only 10 tracks on the entire download you could literally pick any three and have them be just as dope as any others but I'm partial to Soul Khan's "Shot Glass Magnified" remix featuring Sene, Von Pea's superbly slick "Pep Rally" remix and the well positioned and subtle R&B samples looped for Boog Brown on the "Understanding" remix. "

Blueprint :: Adventures in Counter-Culture :: Rhymesayers Entertainment
as reviewed by Matt Jost[Adventures in Counter-Culture]

"Minneapolis MC Prof drops a compelling line on his "Project Gampo" album: "Ain't nobody stoppin' me from what I gotta do to rap." Due to him being regionally confined, few people probably care what Prof does to rap, but by taking this very personal, almost egotistical stance towards his role in rap music he inadvertently brings up a crucial quality to becoming a successful and respected rapper. Many hip-hop icons at one point faced adversity not just from outside but also from within the artform itself. But they were determined about what they had to do to rap, following an inner impetus telling them that their way was right for them. Hip-Hop fans are often appalled by what certain rappers do to rap, me included. But when those rappers respond, "Ain't nobody stoppin' me from what I gotta do to rap," I have to yield and say that's the spirit. I originally wrote the above introduction on the occasion of Ill Bill's "The Hour of Reprisal," making some argument about white rappers winding up in situations where they're forced to overcome the odds in typical hip-hop fashion. The truth of the matter is that the reasons to do things your way are manifold. Columbus rap artist Blueprint is black, but maybe the fact that like Prof he operates on the outskirts of the rap scene is what makes him all the more determined? Who knows."

Carnage45 :: The Elevation ::
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Elevation]

"If we're part of that group that put Carnage45 "in a backpack sub-genre," I apologize to the emcee in advance. When I reviewed his last album, I though the comparisons to Cormega would indicate his lyrical appeal among many audiences, not lock him into a niche where he's not considered commercial or mainstream. Ultimately though we as critics can only take so much of the blame though, because Carnage would have to work HARD to dumb his lyrics and delivery down to a Waka Flocka level. Even if he made a concerted effort, I don't think he could pull it off. Either due to his inherent talent, years of polishing his skills in the lab or both, Carnage is about ten orders of magnitude beyond Waka even on his very best day. It's a good thing then that Carnage doesn't sound bitter about the sub-genre that he's in, because he's not likely to escape it with "The Elevation" either. Good luck with that, because if you're delivering intelligently written raps over well produced music, you're going to lean toward the Talib Kweli side of the equation whether that was your intention or not. In fact if one were to speculate on his intentions, "Prove Em Wrong" would answer many of those questions, since he seems to be out to prove that his career is for real and those who doubt him are sadly mistaken. Achieving it may not be far from his reach, if we assume that's a humanly attainable quality, or perhaps at the very least reaching a level of straight 9's or higher. One thing that mystifies me though is why Carnage45 is this talented, makes music as good as he does, yet continues to give away his albums as free downloads and mixtapes. "

Eclipse 7777 :: Eclipse 7777 :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Eclipse 7777]

"Eclipse is a rapper from Niagara Falls, Canada, land of casinos, strip clubs, imaginary girlfriends and depressing honeymoons. The name of the album references his birthday, July 7, 1977, and to judge by the lyrics, that date is anything but lucky for him. Eclipse has a slow, deliberate delivery, in the vein of Biggie. Eclipse presents himself as an ordinary dude, not a drug kingpin or criminal mastermind. His rhymes are incredibly earnest, dealing with the struggles of daily life, drug addiction, and trying to get by in this cold world. The beats are equally earnest, often sampling alternative rock songs to add to the emotional edge. They are well-done, but I'm not a fan of alt rock,and I found than it made the songs sound cheesy. The admirable positivity of Eclipse's rhymes is tempered by the melodrama of the beats, which gets monotonous over the album's 19 tracks. Despite my criticisms, it is hard for me to be too harsh on "7777," It has it's flaws, but Eclipse is an able rapper with a lot more heart than your average cognac-swilling rapper. "

Prof :: King Gampo :: Stophouse Music Group
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[King Gampo]

"I'm not sure why a picture of someone sitting in a bathtub full of dirty water, eating a sloppy plate of oversauced spaghetti, while drinking milk out of a McDonald's glass would make someone want to buy a rap album. In fact I'm inclined to believe it would have almost the exact OPPOSITE effect. Without knowing Prof you'd think he's some indie rapper trying to get over by being hip-hop's new Bizarre. That tells me one thing about Prof even before listening - he has balls. If you're going to appreciate what he has to offer, you won't be tricked into it. You are going to enjoy his beats or rhymes for what they are, since he's going to sell you on the contents and contents only. That makes his cover art a form of reverse psychology that may ultimately prove highly effective - it's so bad that he MUST be good. Understanding the album's name is much easier. "Gampo" is the word Prof and his friends use to describe something really crazy or really wild, inspired by a childhood friend of the same name. The more gampo it is, the more off the chain or the more off the hook it is. Therefore Prof is declaring himself "King Gampo," the baddest and wildest mo'fo' going."

[LiveLoveA$AP] A$AP Rocky :: LiveLoveA$AP
A$AP Worldwide/Polo Grounds/RCA Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"2011 was the year the young Rakim Mayers b/k/a A$AP Rocky exploded onto the rap scene. It's not hard to imagine anyone named after one of hip-hop's most important and influential lyricists wanting to pursue a music career himself, but fame and fortune was just a dream back in the 1990's when his older brother was killed and his pops got locked up for selling drugs in the span of a year. By his account, it was this turn of fortune that made him decide to take rapping seriously, but that wasn't what made his now famous "Purple Swag" music video go viral. Within seconds of the clip rolling, a young caucasian lass smiles happily into the camera, then proudly proclaims "This is fo' my niggaz gettin' high on the reg-u-lar" - showing off gold fronts on the lower half of her jaw in the process. Given the controversy about white female rappers like V-Nasty and Kreayshawn using the word "nigga" in songs and interviews in 2011, Rocky's video came along at exactly the right time to be noticed by pen wielding writers looking to excoriate yet another girl perceived to be perpetrating a cultural fraud. A$AP swears that "Anna" is just a crazy girl from Harlem he happens to be friends with, and we're to infer that any girl from around his way he drinks and smokes with is just cool like that. You could literally picture the heads of pundits exploding in frustration at the apparent double standard of V-Nasty being called on the carpet while Anna got a free pass. The more they fumed and steamed, the more the video got played, and the more exposure A$AP Rocky got."

Chuuwee :: Watching the Throne :: Amalgam Digital
as reviewed by Aaron Boyce

[Watching the Throne]

"I'll begin by saying that this is my fourth attempt at writing this piece. The holiday period as well as internet issues all played their part but the biggest reason for the delayed submission would probably have to be the album itself. I just couldn't figure out if I liked it. It's not as if I didn't give the album a fair chance, I must have played it through a good six or seven times but that seemed to be the issue; my opinion changed after almost every spin. Whenever I have felt like this before it has just been down to listening to too much hip-hop; my brain goes into a musical shutdown while my ears reject any beats and rhymes that get thrown at me. Fortunately I have learnt to cure this by subjecting myself to brutal metal or filthy dubstep for a couple of days until I'm in a state where I can again appreciate every kick, snare and punchline that makes me love this music so much. After a few days of the aforementioned treatment, I decided to once again revisit Chuuwee's album to see if I could make a little more sense out of my feelings for it. In hindsight, I think that maybe the album's title and artwork put me off a little to begin with. Although Jay-Z and Kanye are often thought of as 'kings' in the rap game, their collaboration album from last year was so disappointing that you really wouldn't need Chuuwee's sniper rifle shown on the cover art to remove them from the throne."

Death Grips ::
Exmilitary :: Third Worlds
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor


"I downloaded "Exmilitary" when it came out in mid-2011. I unzipped it, loaded it into my iTunes, listened to it for thirty seconds, and immediately deleted it from my hard drive. Some dude yelling over beats that sounded like a broken down washing machine? No thanks. There are hundreds of albums I want to listen to, so why would I waste my time with something so irritating? Death Grips sounded too loud, too annoying, too chaotic, and too noisy. I figured I didn't need that in my life. I was wrong. I resurrected it from my trash a month ago, after several bloggers and critics I trusted sang its praises. It hasn't left my stereo since. "Exmilitary" may be noisy and chaotic, but it is also one of the most refreshing hip-hop albums to come out in 2011. Death Grips is a Sacramento crew fronted by MC Ride,with Mexican Girl, Info Warrior, Flatlander and Zach Hill making the noise. For those not familiar with California's capitol city, it's less cool than San Francisco but more interesting than San Jose, a combination of politicians, suburbanites, artists, engineers and meth heads. It's not known for hip-hop, or anything other than being the capitol and having a lot of trees downtown. It's relatively cheap to live, which allows its artists more freedom to create and innovate. Death Grips is a great example of this. "

Dumbfoundead :: DFD :: Dumbfoundead
as reviewed by Daniel Oh


"Hailing from Koreatown, Los Angeles, comes Dumbfoundead. Dumb comes with quite a bit of buzz, especially if you're Korean-American (which I am), live in LA (which I have), follow battle rapping (which I did), or follow anything from Project Blowed (which I don't, Aceyalone and NoCan were the last ones I was really listening to). In doing some background for the album, I saw that this album topped the iTunes chart for a period, beating out major label stars like Wale and J. Cole. It was released back in November, so I'm a little late to the party, but I figured I would bring in the New Year with RapReviews with a positive review rather than a negative one. I couldn't find the liner notes for this album, but I'm assuming most of the production was handled by Dumb's resident DJ, DJ Zo. The album opens with a hood anthem "Town", which weaves a pretty accurate picture of Koreatown. The song is decorated with a contemplative guitar loop, some electric keys, and a slow tempo. Dumb's delivery has a little drawl, not as thick as Dirty South rap, but it's a small vocal skew that adds a little flavor to his verses, and he has a good, easygoing flow that doesn't emphasize or force out words."

Geko + Aetcix :: Goatmob :: Crate Cartel/Obese Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon


"RR readers have gotten to Melbourne emcee/producer Geko over two previous releases: "The Crate Cartel" and "Crate Cartel Radio." For his most recent album in late 2011, Geko teamed up with fellow Aussie underground rapper Aetcix, forming the crew that also became the title of their debut together - "Goatmob." I'm just glad that when combining Geko and Aetcix, they didn't come up with Jokes aside there's serious skills displayed on this latest Obese Records release, which unfortunately may be difficult to find for Yanks in the Northern hemisphere. Even though the press release claims both a CD and a digital release date of November 18th, the only place I could find it in the latter format was iTunes. Worse still, the iTunes version seems to have been shortchanged, missing the songs "Who's That?" and "The Street" featuring Budsa. For the life of me I can't fathom why. It's not as though the bandwidth for 2 more songs on one album could have been a burden to Apple considering they do millions of lucrative transactions every single day. If you're paying $10.99 for a digital album (a fairly high price given how many digital albums sell for $5 or less these days) you ought to be getting MORE, not LESS. Goatmob claim co-production credit for the entire album, but whoever designed the guitar licks and drums of "Who's That?" should give themselves a pat on the back. "

Proe :: Be Brave, Gladiator :: Routine Fly, LLC
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Be Brave, Gladiator]

"This is probably your first introduction to Proe, so allow me the privilege of giving you a brief bio on the artist. He was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California. I was only there for one day many years ago, but I can tell you that the weather is mild and the Pacific Ocean was (at least when I went in it) hella cold. Proe considers himself a Californian for the entire Golden State and not just his hometown though. As his own bio says, "Proe's sound has little resemblance to his surroundings," meaning that if there is such a thing as a typical Santa Cruz rap sound he's definitely NOT it. In fact he happily uses words like "oddball" and "unconventional" to describe his style, which depending on your point of view either makes him less or MORE like his fellow Cali rappers. "Be Brave, Gladiator" is a title that may cause misunderstandings. Rap by necessity requires you to be egotistical enough to think people should hear what you have to say. The timid and fearful won't last long on the microphone, and possibly shouldn't pick one up at all. On the other hand the historical origin of the word gladiator would indeed fit the sentence the title forms. Russell Crowe has glorified the term through cinema, and mixed martial arts loves to co-opt it to imply bravery, but the "gladiators" who were figuratively and literally thrown to the lions were often petty criminals and slaves. "

Small Professor :: Gigantic, Vol. 0 :: Diamond Music Group
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[Gigantic, Vol. 0]

"Remix albums can be hit or miss. On one hand, they give (often unheralded) producers the chance to get creative and showcase their skills by crafting beats around vocals from more prominent artists than those they would normally produce for. Jay-Z, for example, released acapella versions of both "The Black Album" and "American Gangster," leading to a flurry of remix albums that combined Hov's lyrics with samples ranging from Led Zeppelin to Marvin Gaye to music from "The Godfather." On the flip side, there are times when I can't help but cringe when a producer tries to remix a classic song and ends up tarnishing the original. Thus, I was initially skeptical of Small Professor's "Gigantic, Vol. 0", a prequel release to his upcoming album "Gigantic, Vol. 1," even after I read of his critically acclaimed Jay-Z remix album "Crooklyn Gangster." While none of the artists remixed on "Gigantic, Vol. 0" are anywhere near the level of Jay-Z, after checking out some of the original tracks I questioned whether Small Pro would be able to come up with something innovative and fresh. Before diving into the remixes, though, it's worth noting that there are a handful of original Small Pro-produced tracks on "Gigantic, Vol. 0." The first of these is "Welcome to Holodeck," featuring Curly Castro and Zilla Rocca, which comes after the album's intro track that samples dialogue from "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer." "

The Tongue :: The Sextape :: Elefant Traks
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[The Sextape] "I was about to say that we've been spared the embarrassment of rappers caught in the act by a camera, but when it comes to rap gossip, the name 50 Cent turns up without fail. Although, whatever is out there seems to have been an item in one of his numerous feuds, which would make 'the 50 Cent sex tape' simply another move in Curtis Jackson's Machiavellian masterplan for total world domination. More importantly, if there is one type of 'tape' the name 50 Cent is inextricably linked to, it is the mixtape. His career is one of the main reasons the off-label, full-length release known as mixtape is such a popular promotional tool in rap today. Rappers know a little something about getting our attention, and so releasing a mixtape titled "The Sextape" is definitely a very rap thing to do. But while Seattle crew Dyme Def charged for their "Sex Tape" in 2010, The Tongue has the sense to give his away for free. When a rapper calls himself The Tongue, it's not totally wrong to expect him to be a little tongue-in-cheek, and the Sydney MC indeed peppers the project with a healthy dose of irony. The biggest irony, however, is that "The Sextape" is not so much about sexual intercourse but human interaction, as seen through the lens of romance, covering the entire range from longterm relationships to one-night stands. He also doesn't shy away from using the L word, and just to avoid any misunderstandings, in this case the L stands for Love."


[Colored People's Time Machine] Gabriel Teodros :: Colored People's Time Machine
Fresh Chopped Beats

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Gabriel Teodros hails from the 98118, which his bio proudly proclaims is "the most ethnically diverse zip code in the country." That seems like unnecessary hyperbole given it has absolutely no bearing on whether or not he's a good lyricist or musician, but dutiful fact checker that I am, I decided to look it up anyway. There appears to be some census data that supports the claim, but the anecdotal accounts from Columbia City (annexed into the city of Seattle back in 1907) also suggests that urban gentrification is in full swing. This is due to the skyrocketing value of real estate in what is seen as a hip and trendy Seattle neighborhood that caters to the eco friendly - plenty of bike paths and easily available mass transit options. For what it's worth said same anecdotal evidence highly rates the diversity of ethnic restaurants and rates Rainier Avenue as a top tourist destination. It is in this environment that Teodros released the album "lovework" in 2007. DJ Complejo's review was generally positive, although it did subtly hint that Teodros was a bit of an activist, borderline to being a man out of time from a 1960's era of flower power, love and peace. Perhaps that's true. It may be that Teodros travelled here in his TARDIS style "Colored People's Time Machine," saw the grim negativity of the 21st century, and committed himself to making a difference with his positive vibes. "Time Machine" is a rap album most parents wouldn't need to worry about their children listening to - unless they're worried about the sorrows of the real world being too deep for a young mind."

Barbone :: One to Self :: Barbone
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[One to Self]

"Joining the long list of Australian rap artists looking to make a name for themselves internationally is 24-year old Melbourne native Barbone. He might be new to the list, but he's not new to rapping, having spit lyrics since he was a teenager back in the 2000's. He cites his inspirations as a who's who of 1990's hip-hop stars such as Onyx, Kool G. Rap, Ras Kass, and Big L. Perhaps one might be disappointed he's not citing fellow Australians as inspiration, but to be honest I wouldn't know which 1990's Aussie rappers to cite myself, as my collection of hip-hop records, discs and tapes was predominantly North American (U.S. and Canada) in those days. At least he's not citing anybody whack. Imagine how horrified we'd be if he was inspired by Vanilla Ice. "One to Self" is his latest evolution following a short stint in the rap group Reverse Psychology, during which time he toured and performed with notable Australian rappers like Fluent Form and Geko among others. The networking has clearly been to his benefit, because "One to Self" has production well matched to his lyrics, neither drowning him in melody or bass nor being so understated it would qualify as minimalistic. In other words, the beats strike a healthy balance, spread out over a half dozen different dudes. On "Big Nose Bandits" Mizaricuts By Dukets pounds the drumbeat as Barbone rails against pop rappers who "are as transparent as Helen Sharp."

Ciecmate :: Chess Sounds Volume 01 :: Broken Tooth/Obese Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Chess Sounds Volume 01]

"Australian hip-hopper Ciecmate has quietly been raising his profile as a full time producer and part time emcee over the past few years. With "Chess Sounds Volume 01" he's attempting to raise it even further, procuring a selection of talented rappers from both Australia and North America, then providing the audio backdrop for all of them to showcase their skills. He wastes no time on the above quoted opener "Cause and Effect" featuring Newsense, a conspiracy theorist tale of state-sponsored terrorism and New World Order harrowing enough to please even Immortal Technique. "All aboard for the war on terror, waterboarding [...] all in the name of the game of border protection." Things are rugged right from the jump. Ciecmate doesn't let up on the throttle much over the next 16 tracks, but the line-up changes from song to song along with the sonic landscape that he procures. Brad Strut gets a rock'n'roll injection on "I Need Change," Tame One gets cavernous booming beats for "Once Again It's On," and Kid Selzy gets a beat dirty and dusty enough for Killah Priest on "Trashem." The one thing you could argue they all have in common is that these are not sunny, cheerful pop tunes. In some ways they're a throwback to the 1990's era of underground rap songs on independent record labels, where each emcee seemed pressed to outgrimey the hot single of the man or woman who came before."

John Graham :: Success in Retrograde EP :: Ego Free Music Group
as reviewed by Aaron Boyce

[Success in Retrograde EP]

"John Graham is the most remarkably unremarkable name that I have come across in over fifteen years of listening to hip-hop. Rappers are generally known for coming up with some of the most outlandish monikers in the music industry so when an MC records under his birth name, it is surprisingly effective at grabbing your attention. It is not a coincidence that this fits nicely with the name and ethos of the label, Ego Free Music. Although Ego Free is still in its infancy, the vision is very mature and clear; to release positive and thought provoking music that distances itself from the more regular posturing usually associated with hip-hop. I would say for the most part of this seven songs deep introduction to John Graham that they achieve their aim. "The Ground Floor" serves as a great introduction to John Graham's flow which, at times, sounds a little like a socially aware Freeway. The way that he uses the small nuances in his voice, which often sounds like it's on the verge of breaking, to further add to the musical backdrop is certainly reminiscent of Philly's favourite bearded MC. The production of the seven tracks is handled by five different beatmakers who all bring their own individual sound to the table and Graham manages to ride all of the beats with the polish and style of an artist who has been honing his craft for the last fifteen years. "

Hir-O :: The Freakstrumental Joint :: BLAT! Pack
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[The Freakstrumental Joint]

"As far as black music nomenclature goes, the freak sadly is a nearly extinct species. Things were different in the '70s and '80s. For Nile Rodgers and company, "Le Freak" was simply Chic. George Clinton crooned approvingly, "The girl is a freak, the girl never misses a beat." Sexual Harrassment cryptically (and maybe foresightedly) wished, "I need a freak to be my home computer set." And Rick James found himself nothing short of the "Super Freak." You know, the kind you don't take home to mother. But as the loudmouthed upstart called rap began to drown out soul, funk and disco, freaks became endangered. Whodini may have sensed the impending disappearance when they recorded the hip-hop classic "Freaks Come Out at Night," observing, "In the daytime the streets was clear / You couldn't find a good freak anywhere." Old souls like Too $hort ("Freaky Tales"), Digital Underground ("Freaks of the Industry"), Cee-Lo Green ("Closet Freak") or Devin the Dude ("Freak") still occasionally paid tribute to freakdom, while Adina Howard ("Freak Like Me") was the freak of the week for contemporary R&B (and Ghostface). And lest you forgot, Missy and Timbo made you "Get Ur Freak On" not that long ago. "

Maggz :: Soundscapes:Autumn Selection ::
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace

[Soundscapes: Autumn Selection]

"So yeah, I'm a little late on this. But if you had the chance to read my 2011 Year In Review, I've been going through some sue me. Maggz is a native of Rochester, New York but he now makes his home in Columbus, Ohio. A versatile artist, Maggz can hold his own both behind the boards and on the microphone. I first became aware of his production on Zero Star's "Don't Look Now" and I took notice of his flow when I reviewed his "Maggnetic Opposites" last year, ironically during the fall. With this project, "Soundscapes: Autumn Selection," Maggz lets the music do the talking for him. As a matter of fact, the only speech we hear is a bit of a montage from an episode of "Space: Above and Beyond" as Captain Shane Vansen played by Kristen Cloke explains how she falls in love in our most colorful season. And thus begins "Autumn Mornings," the first of six instrumental tracks that draw inspiration from various elements of the autumn season. With titles like "Window Fog," "Late Sunrise," "Brown Leaves" and "Early Sunset," listeners are sure to get the feeling of the season."

Scheme :: Life That I Chose :: Molemen Inc.
as reviewed by Daniel Oh

[Life That I Chose]

"I had a hard time coming to a conclusion about this album. I wanted to like it, everything was there for me to like it, and I want to root for guys like Scheme. The production was well done, the lyrics aren't bad, the songs by themselves are entertaining, and maybe on another day I would love to endorse this album. Still, I have this feeling that I'll forget about this album once I'm done reviewing it. It's not out of any disrespect or insult to Scheme, it's just the way it is. If I look at it from a technical and musical standpoint, the album manages to hold up well. However, if I ask myself "Will I listen to any of these tracks once I send this review in?" The answer, while immersed in a murky cloud of doubt and double guesses, is a no. The album starts off with "Let it Burn". A-Slot, who handles the production for the entire EP, introduces the song with stripped down bass drums, and Scheme begins things by repeating that "this is for the kids!" The beat eventually drops, speeding up the tempo and adding a synth loop and high keys that puts some weight behind the sound. Scheme takes awhile to get warmed up, but he gets into that unconscious mode where his schemes and flow clicks into place. The one problem I have with his flow is that it's hard to understand it."

Yo Gotti :: January 10th (The Mixtape) :: Yo Gotti Music
as reviewed by Pedro 'DJ Complejo' Hernandez

[January 10th (The Mixtape)]

"Simple title. Simple concept. Yo Gotti's latest mixtape veers from his every popular "Cocaine Music" concept for more than a few reasons. The very first is marketing. Name the mixtape after its release date and advertise both with one short phrase. The second reason is the fact this date holds some significance to the Memphis emcee. His major label "debut" dropped on January 10, 2012 and this mixtape was meant to both undercut and advertise "Live From The Kitchen." Like any rapper, Yo Gotti wants to sell records. Yet, with "Live From The Kitchen" Yo Gotti felt a little disrespected and for good reason. After being in limbo for over 5 years, Yo Gotti only learned of "Live From The Kitchen's" release date when someone told him the album was up for pre-order on iTunes. Ouch. Yo Gotti rightfully calls himself one of the most popular rappers on the mixtape circuit and is unhappy with the unceremonious manner his album has been treated. "January 10th" serves both as a way for Yo Gotti to vent and clear up a few issues and drop some tracks which were left off the retail version of his album. I've reduced mixtapes to a practical process. I listen. Repeat. Then throw out anything I don't see myself listening to again. "

yU :: The Earn :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[The Earn]

"DC rapper yU (government name Michael Willingham Jr) first made his mark in 2009 as part of the Diamond District with Oddissee and XO. He released his first solo album in 2010, the excellent "Before Taxes." He dropped his follow-up, "The Earn," in the last weeks of 2011. As good as "Before Taxes" was, "The Earn" is an even stronger offering. "The Earn" is about earning money and respect. YU is all about earning money and respect rather than just taking it. He raps about making money honestly and legally, through hard work, skill, and talent. "They're going to give me what I'm worth, nothing less/I work hard, plus my word is bond" he raps on the title track. He calls himself the Humble King, and the tag fits. In both beats and rhymes, yU is subtle, understated, professional, and expert. He is a strong lyricist and rapper, peeling off complex lines effortlessly. He gives a masters class in how to write a rhyme on "First." Song after song offers insights and reflections that you rarely see in pop music.YU manages to make these observations without seeming cheesy or preachy. "Blind" talks about how we don't see the things in front of you; "I Believe" is about believing in yourself and something bigger than you; "Better Man" is about striving to be best you can be; "Delay" is about the need to slow down and not rush through life."

"Here we are again with Mr. Daniel Swain, a talented recording artist whose travails in the tumultuous music industry we've been chronicling since he dropped "Charm" in 2006. At one point his stock had risen so high that indie imprint darling Definitive Jux signed him to a deal; ironically they could never give the rapper nor anyone else a definitive record release date for his album. "Where Is Danny?" was both the answer and a question, with his alleged label doing almost nothing to promote their signee, which ultimately led to a "Where Is Danny? 2.0" released in 2011 with new beats and a new distributor - Interscope Records. For fans of Mr. Swain's music, the news that follows will be no less frustrating - so I apologize in advance for having this advance. The press release contains a tentative January 17th release date, which has already come and gone, but you won't find this album for sale on his personal website nor at For what it's worth the fact this album is now in my hands indicates Swain is as anxious to get it out to the press as to the public, so perhaps it's a sample clearance issue (even though he meticulously lists all usage in his press kit). The album looks and sounds complete though - "Payback" is 17 tracks clocking in at nearly 80 minutes total worth of music."

various artists :: 16 Songs for 16 Days of Activism to Stop Violence Against Women :: Obese Records/CASA House
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon[16 Songs for 16 Days]

"Respectfully I'm going to defer the opening of this review to a statement of intentions and goals from the producers of this album. I'm quoting directly from the CASA House website here, which you can access yourself by clicking on the cover art for this release. "The 16 Songs for 16 Days Of Activism to Stop Violence Against Women project is funded under a grant from the Australian Government. It involves a partnership between CASA House, Melbourne Citymission and YWCA Victoria, with support from Obese Records. The project coincides with the International yearly campaign, 16 Days of Activism to Stop Violence Against Women." "The project was developed as a means of engaging young people who were accessing housing support services around the issues of violence against women. This engagement has been undertaken through group work with young people (based at Melbourne Citymission) and the production of a hip hop CD which contains messages against violence and promotes respectful relationships." Now if one were to question whether such high-minded idealistic activism is worthwhile in this cynical age, one has only to look at the year 2011 in the news to see the powerful of activism put into action. From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, activists made their voices heard loud and clear, often risking police brutality or a sniper rifle's bullet in the process."

Louie Gonz :: Extras 3 :: All Elements Crew
as reviewed by Mike Baber[Extras 3]

"For me personally, there is a considerable difference between listening to hip-hop as a background track, whether it's at the gym or on the way to class, and listening while giving my full focus to the song or album. In the case of the former, I often find myself simply nodding along to the track, as long as the beat has some bounce to it and the emcee has a strong delivery. If my undivided attention is on the music, though, I dig deeper and focus more on the lyrics themselves, picking up wordplay that I would otherwise miss with a casual listen. This also makes it easier to distinguish between the artists that merely sound good over the track and artists who are true lyricists, and such is the case with Louie Gonz on his latest mixtape "Extras 3." After a quick listen through, Louie seems to hold his own on the mic, but a more careful examination reveals that, although there are a handful of standout tracks, his smooth flow overshadows the fact that he fails to really bring anything new to the table in terms of lyricism. Upon first glance, "Extras 3" may seem like a mixtape that's too long for its own good. Of the 26 tracks, though, only five of them are more than three minutes long, and the mixtape in total clocks in at just under an hour. Although "Extras 3" sees Louie flow over a number of instrumentals borrowed from other artists, many of the lengthier songs are produced specifically for the mixtape and feature a majority of the guest appearances."

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