Monday February 20, 2017

The (W)rap up for 2012 - February [1 of 2]
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 4:30PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[Black Materia: The Remixes]Random and Lost Perception :: Black Materia: The Remixes
Mega Ran Music

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"It would be fair to call "Black Materia" the album so good we had to review it twice just to get it right. It would also be fair to say that if you're not among that hardcore gaming niche, the hip-hop head who visits Kotaku daily and downloads every new OC Remix that gets released, the album might not have been your cup of tea (or 40 of beer). The idea was intentionally and unapologetically geeky - take the best selling role playing game of all time and write rap songs about the plot set to the melodies of the game. The album should in theory have crossover appeal though, because the raps tell a great story which you don't need to have played the game to understand, and Lost Perception hooked up the melodies in a way that fit each song like a glove. If you are still skeptical about the whole hip-hop/gaming thing, give it a fair chance. "Black Materia: The Remixes" may be even more niche - after all this is flipping an album that was itself flipping Final Fantasy VII and releasing it a second time. This isn't just all about remixes though. There are brand new songs here which there just weren't enough time for on the original "Black Materia," and considering how deep that album was, that's a pretty astounding thought. Surely the digital download copies could have included a song like "Ninja Girl" - it's not like there are limits to how long a download album can be."

various artists :: Beat Street Soundtrack :: Atlantic Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Patrick Taylor[Beat Street Soundtrack]
"It's fall of 1984. I'm riding the school bus home from another day in the fourth grade. Two older boys pull out a smallish ghetto baster and start playing some music that is like nothing I have heard before. It starts with an ominous bell, and then a beat kicks in, joined by a synthesized funk track, all punctuated with cuts and scratches. The scratching acts like another instrument, chopping up the music and adding percussive elements. Then a man's voice comes on, sing-talking in a style that I would learn was called "rapping." That was my introduction to hip-hop and breakdancing, and I was hooked. I came to learn that it had originated in New York, and was supposedly a way for gangs to battle each other without violence. I had never been to any city, much less one as big as New York, but I immediately fell in love with this music. My siblings and I embraced hip-hop culture. I got fat laces for my converse, and a hoodie emblazoned with "Breakin'" in graffiti writing. We set up cardboard in our living room to breakdance, which was facilitated by my family's total lack of furniture. I wrote in bubble script all over my 4th grade binder. I learned how to windmill from the Hispanic kids at my school, who were were much more hip to what was going on. I was hooked."

various artists :: Raps United Nations - 1st Wave :: R.U.N.
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Raps United Nations - 1st Wave]
"As hip-hop compilations go, Billy Danze of M.O.P. fame is certainly attempting one of the more ambitious efforts in recent memory. "Raps United Nations" is nearly two hours of music in total at this early point in its development, though it's fair to say given this is a promotional copy that it may wind up being pared down before release, or even split in half with another group of tracks being the "2nd Wave." It's not the size alone that makes this project a big deal though. The one-sheet accompanying "Raps United Nations" notes that unsigned artists trying to get noticed by accident promoting themselves online is literally the equivalent of catching lightning in a bottle. His solution to this problem? Form what he describes as "an army of incredible artists from all corners of the globe to unify and raise awareness for them by creating projects which are loud enough to be heard by the masses." It's the old "strength in numbers" theory being put into practice for a new era of music distribution. After listening to this album, it occurs to me this idea may have been TOO ambitious. In the old days when you could bring a collective of like-minded artists together, cliques like Death Row and the Juice Crew had more than just their skills and a common producer or record label between them. Most of them also had geography, being the best their region had to offer, creating a cream of the crop for one locale which also had a distinctively unique sound endemic to that area. "

Boog Brown :: The Brown Study Remixes :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[The Brown Study Remixes]
"Apollo Brown is a frequently dropped name here and elsewhere, but his 2010 collaboration with female rapper Boog Brown, "Brown Study," came and went largely unnoticed. A little more than a year later it's time for "The Brown Study Remixes," our chance to get (re-)acquainted with Boog Brown and "Brown Study" from a slightly different angle. The Michigan producer is still on board, for the new track and hometown anthem "Detroit." Boog Brown may have begun to take roots in Atlanta but she still has love for the D, as evidenced by her ode to "the pretty and the gritty, Detroit Rock City." The other new offering is "Growth," an optimistic manual for personal progress (best summed up by the line "Don't harbor ill will when it's time to build") set to a gingerly flourishing track courtesy of 14KT (of Athletic Mic League fame). The remixers generally turn in competent performances. Nick Tha 1Da opens the proceedings with etheral voices and soulful strings ("Shine"). MarvWon adheres to the Detroit school of production with his slightly abstract, avantgarde beat for "Friction," while Def Dee takes a cue from Black Milk with the bumping yet clean-cut "Blink." Georgia Anne Muldrow cuts a slice of obstinate but catchy funk for the regrettably short "My Love." Illastrate revisits the melodically rich days of late '90s/early '00s underground hip-hop with "Master Plan" and is given the playing time needed to build up his classy assortment of atmospheric sounds."

Dr. B and Mister :: Just So You Know ::
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[Just So You Know]
"There is something to be said for collaboration albums that feature a single producer working with an emcee and crafting the entirety of the beats, as it allows the two artists to develop chemistry and build off one another's talents. Of course, this is not always a recipe for success; one of the most common problems is that the album is simply too long and the producer is unable to provide enough variety to keep things interesting throughout. After examining the track list for "Just So You Know," though, I immediately knew length would not be an issue. Checking in at only five tracks, the EP from Detroit emcee Mister and British producer Dr. B promises "old-school melodic beats layered with the insightful rhymes" in the accompanying promotional material, and while I was initially skeptical of this all-too-common claim, my doubt would soon be erased. "Just So You Know" may not have the depth of an actual album, but from the moment I started listening, I could tell that Mister and Dr. B stayed true to their word. In order for a compilation album to really work, the beats have to complement and mesh with the emcee's flow, and this is evident from the very beginning of "Just So You Know." Mister raps with a straightforward, easy to understand delivery, rhyming about everyday issues in his life without adding any fluff or exaggerated claims, and Dr. B lays the foundation with sampled drums and other instruments without overpowering the lyrics."

K-Murdock :: Hero Muzik Vol. 1 :: Neosonic Productions
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Hero Muzik Vol. 1]
"That desire makes K-Murdock a lot like the man he is paying tribute to on "Hero Muzik Vol. 1," Mr. Nobuo Uematsu. You'll never play a video game he scored the instrumentals for and hear a single word from him, but you'll be hearing his voice all the same. Uematsu's fame in the gaming world is well-earned and deserved because of his belief that a video game's score should be orchestral and cinematic. A good game becomes great when you can lose yourself in the melody of the world you are exploring, making you truly feel like you're part of this larger than life experience. Uematsu's attention to detail helps you to feel an emotional resonance with the characters on screen that text and graphics alone could never do. In choosing Final Fantasy VI for his first edition of "Hero Muzik," K-Murdock not only chose a cult favorite among gamers but one of the best examples of Uematsu's work. While Final Fantasy VII may be more well known and widely remembered, the distinctive songs he made for each hero in FFVI have stood the test of time and get an enjoyable update from the hip-hop producer du jour in charge. Celes' theme seems even more haunting as "Ballad of the Lone Warrior" with a little rearrangement and a backing beat, though it maintains the somber tempo and spirit of the original. "

Moe Green :: Free Water :: Moe Green Music/Super Doper Dope
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Free Water]
"I suppose Moe Green was playing to my natural vices by releasing tracks like "Top Turnbuckle Lifestyle" and "Non-Title Match," then dropping an album called "Rocky Maivia." I run a wrestling and MMA website as a side business, something which long-time readers may know about and first timers just learned about (welcome newcomers). Now these days I'm more into the MMA part of the equation, but I still keep up on the world of "sports entertainment" on a week to week basis. Sometimes things click, as often as not they don't, but I still have a little smile on the inside when I hear any hip-hop artist drop a Superfly Snuka or Barry Horowitz reference. Wrestling isn't as cool in 2012 as it used to be back when Stone Cold and The Rock ran things on one network while Sting and Goldberg were housing shit on the other running head to head. Admitting you're a fan in this era is taking a risk, so wrestling fans who keep it on the down-low appreciate the shout out, while those who are open about it still appreciate someone being honest and proud about what they like. Rap heads who are wrestling fans even make and share lists of their favorite references that might have gone over the heads of non-fans - it's like a secret club with a password and a special handshake where rappers like MF DOOM let you in with a wink and a grin."

Spaceman Beaumonte :: From Me to You Enjoy :: Sportn' Life Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Sportn' Life Records]
"Demetrius Beaumonte a/k/a Spaceman and sometimes Spac3man is part of that next generation of new rappers like ScHoolboy Q and A$AP Rocky that have developed their following largely by word of mouth and website buzz. If I told you that you could find "From Me to You Enjoy" at retail anywhere I'd be lying. Hell I'm not even honestly sure where I got this EP from. I'm assuming his label Sportn' Life sent it to me, but there's no one sheet, bio, tracklisting or even cover art inside. That's why all you'll see on the right side of this review is the SL logo. That's alright though, because Spaceman has done enough interviews and released enough material that I can still tell you a little bit about him before we get to the meat of this five track EP. He hails from Seattle. His non-rap conversations live up to his name - like the dude seems to not be flowing at the same rate of 4th dimensional time as the rest of us. He doesn't declare himself as straightedge, but he doesn't drink or smoke either. If you're Spaceman Beaumonte though, why would you need to? The dude is seriously high on himself without pharmaceutical help, and that's not high as in egotistical, that's high as in "out there beyond the stars." He's happy to be weird. If one heard him do a mixtape with Tyler, the Creator it wouldn't really come as a shock."
[Winter In America]Bill Ortiz :: Winter In America
Left Angle Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Carlos Santana does not appear on this album. Just thought I'd get that out of the way at the start. Readers who know the name Bill Ortiz would recognize him as the funky trumpeter extraordinaire from Santana's jam band. What may be lesser known to those same Santana fans is that Ortiz himself is a hip-hop fan, and he goes deep in the genre. In fact if you go all the way back to the timeless hip-hop classic "'93 Til Infinity" by the Souls of Mischief, you'll hear Bill, and that's not because he was sampled. Ortiz is a progressive jazz musician in every sense of the word, and for my two cents, he's the anti-Wynton Marsalis. Besides rocking crowds with Santana, you can also hear his collaborations with everybody from En Vogue to Total, from Sheila E to TLC. As such it's really no surprise to me that Ortiz would want to drop a hip-hop CD. Ortiz himself puts it like this: "I've been really encouraged by some of the Bay Area hip-hop artists like Zumbi and The Grouch who make music with enlightened lyrics. We often celebrate ignorance in our society, so I wanted to celebrate consciousness."

Clams Casino :: Instrumental Mixtape ::
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Instrumental Mixtape]
"In the beginning, there was the break. DJ Kool Herc discovered the magic of repeating the funkiest instrumental breakdowns from popular rock, soul, and disco albums of the day, turning five seconds of The Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache" into a irresistible sonic background that gave space for b-boys to breakdance and MCs to spit rhymes. As hip-hop progressed the technology around sampling breaks got more sophisticated, culminating in the complicated sound collages of the Bomb Squad and the Dust Brothers. Right about the time sampling hit its creative peak with "Paul's Boutique" and "It Takes A Nation of Millions," a series of lawsuits served put stifling constraints on the practice of borrowing seconds of another artist's music. Today the break is no longer king. It's too expensive to sample even moderately well-known stuff, and most of those songs have been mined to death already. While there are still producers who can flip a sample and make it sound interesting and vibrant, more and more beats based on old funk breaks sound nostalgic or old-fashioned. The past twenty years has seen hip-hop production straying from MPCs and Chic 12 inches, and instead turning to synthesizers and electronic music. Few producers have been able to balance electronic music and hip-hop as well as New Jersey native Mike Volpe, aka Clams Casino. "

DATGirl :: Slutstep :: DATGirl Media
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Described in her one sheet as both "a visionary gearhead vixen" and "a cross between Princess Superstar and Sarah Silverman," DATGirl is doing her best to live up to all of the above on "Smack and Please." "Baby if you love me, shove me/honey if you want me, taunt me/sweetie if you need me, beat me." One could say it's DATGirl's self-produced ode to sadomasochism. It certainly seems like a song designed to titillate male listeners, but there are two inherent problems. The first is that not all of them are going to be into pain as pleasure, and the second is that those who really ARE would probably dish out more than the relatively PG fantasy that DATGirl dishes out. It might be erotica but it's far from hardcore whips, chains & bondage. Is that all DATGirl is about though? Her heritage is accurately and somewhat confusingly described as Iraqi-American-Jewish-Buddhist, and while she may or may not be bisexual her New York to San Francisco travels definitely make her bicoastal. She's had a lot of different gigs besides a musical career, as she's apparently "an experienced fire eater" and an expert at "mask performance and Balinese dance." I have to just be blunt with the readers at this point - DATGirl has been so many things it doesn't seem like she can settle on being any ONE thing. That's far from her biggest problem though. Being eclectic could win her fans, but bad parodies of Sir Mix-A-Lot definitely will not."

Iggy Azalea :: Ignorant Art :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Ignorant Art]
"Iggy Azalea makes a very reasonable statement on "Ignorant Art": "My time will start today / Nicki paved the way." She quickly adds the names "Kim, Foxy, Eve," but Nicki Minaj is unquestionably the main reference point here. Iggy Azalea is a creature of the digital age, using the internet as a source of influence and as a tool to build her image and her fanbase. Her four videos of original material ("D.R.U.G.S," "Pu$$y," "My World," "The Last Song") are eye-catching compositions whose star may strike ubiquitous model and rapper poses but also exudes actual natural confidence. The visual element is an integral part of her performance, adding a dimension that just wouldn't be there if you only listened to the music. Looks and sounds have always been closely intertwined in pop music, but female artists tradtionally experience more pressure to project an image. Some have been able to take control and used the premise to look presentable to their own advantage, most famously Madonna. Stylish female rappers are nothing new either, but they usually didn't get very far. Which would corroborate the traditionalists who would like to believe that it's still mainly the music that excites people. "

Junior Toots :: A Little Bit of Love :: Crown of Fire Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[A Little Bit of Love]
"It's a shame that "A Little Bit of Love" isn't available in stores today - after all it is Valentine's Day. I doubt Junior Toots will stay up nights worrying about it though - after all the "love" he's professing is the universal love for all mankind, born from the blessings Jah provide. He's already blessed Junior with excellent reggae genetics, being that he's the son of reggae legend Toots Hibbert, who you may know best from Toots and the Maytals. Then again you may NOT know, which is as good a reason for you to be reading this review as any. Junior's story deviates from his father's a bit. While both of them were born in Jamaica, the younger Toots has been living in the United States since the 1980's, first in Connecticut but ultimately in California. You will find Toots' roots definitely lend to the reggae format, while his accent has definitely gained a touch of Americanization given he came here at such a young age. There will no doubt be debate about whether or not this is for the best - for some ears he may be easier to understand than more traditional Jamaican artists, while some listeners may feel he's a pretender to a culture he was long ago uprooted and made apart from."

Magnificent Ruffians :: Spanglish Conquistadores ::
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Spanglish Conquistadores]
"The Magnificent Ruffians have a fair claim to being "Spanglish Conquistadores" for two reasons - they constantly switch back and forth between two languages +and+ they have a producer named AGQ who hails FROM Spain. California to Spain? Now that's what I call some international zone coasting. If that wasn't enough to justify the title of their album, the Ruffians go out of their way to collaborate with famous hispanic hip-hop heads like Tony Touch and Thirstin Howl III. For my money though that's far from the best track out of the 34 minutes of "Spanglish Conquistadores." The ethereal reverberation of the title cut is a nice place to start, and the features from Blest One and Dkoldis are welcomed. The harmonizing and deadpan delivery of "Trust Issues" featuring Isayah Thomas works well too as does AGQ's bare bones beat. To get the party going you'd want to throw on the bass heavy "Ooh Wee" featuring Virush, and if you want to go horrorcore like the Gravediggaz you can hit your corner bodega and blast "3 Round Burst" until everyone scatters. "

OCD (Moosh & Twist) :: The Vestibule ::
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[The Vestibule]
"As someone who has gone to college for the past four years in the Philadelphia area, I'm always keeping an eye out for up-and-coming local acts looking to add to the City of Brotherly Love's hip-hop scene. A little less than a year ago, I came across Moosh and Twist, at the time two 17-year-olds who collectively made up the duo OCD and had just released their first mixtape, "Up Before the World." With a handful of catchy songs, witty lyrics, and sample driven beats, the release was a quality effort despite the few lyrical shortcomings one would normally expect from a hip-hop album coming from a couple of high-school kids. It was apparent that Moosh and Twist weren't at all intimidated by their lack of experience in the hip-hop game, and their rhymes, while not the most complex, carried the energy and excitement necessary to ensure an enjoyable listen. Since then, I've periodically checked back to the group's website to listen to some of their new material, and given that the two now high-school graduates have recently put their studies to the side to focus exclusively on music, I figured it was an appropriate time to review their latest mixtape, "The Vestibule," released in January of 2012. "

[I Am Ohene]Ohene :: I Am Ohene
Soul Model Records/Kunaki LLC

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"We last heard from Ohene Savant in 2007 when he released "Inner City Soul." Reviewer Rowald Pruyn had a lot to sort out in coming up with his coverage, including the fact Ohene is Ghanian by birth but Illadelph 215 by trade and sound; not to mention the fact Pruyn is an avowedly unreligious man while Savant is proud to proclaim his faith. It turns out that wasn't an impediment to his enjoyment of Ohene's work though: "Because Ohene mostly tells about his devotion instead of imposing it upon me, he gives me a chance to listen with an open visor." By the end the devout rapper earned a fairly divine score: 8.5 out of 10. Initially I believed Ohene had disappeared off the scene after this stellar debut, but instead he went underground for a bit. He's re-emerging in 2012 on a new label, Soul Model Records, with a new full length album titled "I Am Ohene." As an artist Ohene is the total package: writing, producing, mixing and recording his entire disc all on his own. He can therefore own the success or failure of this release himself and not have to share the glory with anyone save perhaps God. Of course when you have to be your own producer and studio engineer, it can lead to the kind of long delays between albums seen here. "

Alias IQ :: The Green Album :: Wreckless Records
as reviewed by Aaron Boyce

[The Green Album]
"Anybody who knows me will know that an album that opens with an auto-tuned shout-out to 'hustlers, ballers', 'gangstas' and 'scholars' is hardly my musical dream come true but that's exactly where I found myself fifteen seconds into this release from Kansas City native Alias IQ. It's an unashamedly hollow start to an album that pretty much sets the standard for the ensuing forty-five minutes. Alias IQ is another MC hailing from the currently thriving KC rap scene for which artists such as Tech N9ne and Mac Lethal have long been flying the flag. Despite both of those artists putting in work for many years it is only recently that they have started to gain the attention that they both deserve albeit for very different reasons; Tech's recent collaborations with Lil' Wayne opening him up to a broader audience while Mac's YouTube appearance of him, umm, rapping really fast about pancakes has reached over twenty million views to date. With these two gents smashing the door open for the Kansas City scene the time seems right for other likeminded artists to grab the opportunity with both hands and make a name for themselves. Unfortunately Alias IQ doesn't really do that and instead opts to recycle rather tired rap clichés over an often uninspiring selection of beats."

The Darkmonk :: True Underlord :: XIL/Metal Face Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[True Underlord]

""Thematically speaking 'True Underlord' is a post apocalyptic journey into the mind of a modern day anti-hero." That concept may be rather bold for a new and completely unknown rap artist, but Darkmonk's grandiose conceptual design is bolstered by the big names associated with his "True Underlord" CD. He benefits from having the backing of long time hip-hop favorite MF DOOM, who is releasing Darkmonk's album on Metal Face Records. He's also got a who's who of hip-hop producers making the beats for his rhymes including Madlib, Jake One, DJ Kool Akiem and Daniel Dumile himself. He's also got some lesser-knowns on the boards too such as Wesutrxx, who produces "Nervous" and "Text Off Da Celly" among others. The beats on both songs are acceptable, if not spectacular, but listening to "Text Off Da Celly" one can't help but notice the rhymes are not living up to the hyperbole. Deltron 3030 was a post apocalyptic anti-hero without even needing to say so over a decade ago. He took us on a journey to a place and time where urban cyberpunks rebelled against an oppressive world state by downloading viruses into government mainframes. Del's spectacularly freeform flows mirrored the anarchistic hip-hop values he wanted to inject into the masses of his dark future, liberating them from a totalitarian mainstream."

I-Octane :: Crying to the Nation :: VP Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Crying to the Nation]
"Jamaican singjay I-Octane has been generating buzz for a few years now with singles like "Lose A Friend" and "Nuh Love Inna Dem." He released a mixtape last year, and an EP earlier this year. His debut album, "Crying to the Nation," contains his early singles as well as new tracks. Those expecting hard-hitting dancehall might be put off by I-Octane's kindler, gentler take on the genre. The opening track, "Rules of Life," is a mellow Caribbean song that is more suited to a tourist resort than a sweaty soundsystem. Surely there's more to I-Octane than lightweight reggae sung with a gruff voice? Thankfully, there is, although he has definitely gone mellow on this album. He immediately ups the ante with "Help I Please." The riddim is dirty, R&B-inflected reggae, and I-Octane's voice has just the right mix of earnestness and roughness. The man can hold a tune despite having vocal chords that sound shredded from years of yelling into a mic. In both his lyrics and his persona he comes across as a someone who has seen the drama of life on the streets first hand, and has decided to live a more righteous existence. He's not trying to be the toughest or most virile. Instead he aims at being wise and honest. "

Lone Ninja :: Fatal Peril :: Holographic Pagoda Recordings
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Fatal Peril]
"This is the third solo album from Lone Ninja dating back to 2008, though he's also one half of the hip-hop tandem Twin Perils along with June Marx. The latter normally provides capable production for most of Holographic Pagoda's releases, but on this new album Ninja reached out to British producer Blaq Masq to hook up the audio. You probably wouldn't be aware of the fact he was British were it not for the fact he introduces "Fatal Peril" himself, "shoutin' from the UK" as it were. I tried to get some more background on the elusive Masq for this review but all I could find was his YouTube channel, which not coincidentally features songs he produced for "Fatal Peril." One of his uploads is "Equilibrium," well named for the audio balance Masq obtains from symphonic elements. Being that this isn't an instrumental album from Masq though (which I'd be interested in checking out) we also have to take a look at the mysterious martial artist Lone Ninja. There are three trademarks to his flow on previous releases: a fascination with militaristic imagery, a RZA slash G. Rap lisp to his vocal delivery, and an occasional lack of emotional resonance. The latter I attribute to the same disease that infects so many emcees trying to make their name in hip-hop: seriousitosis. "

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

[Soundscapes: Winter Selection]
"I'm sure Al Gore is somewhere right now polishing his Oscar, looking out his window and thinking to himself "I told you so." I'm not sure where you stay dear Reader, but in my neck of the woods, this winter season has been fairly mild when compared to others on record. There really haven't been any major snowstorms or anything and come to think of it, my biggest complaint would probably the early morning temperatures that can be bitter at times and one spell of freezing rain that fell while I was out at a birthday party shooting some photos. I wonder how Maggz feels about it all. As you may have read in my reviews of Maggz' "Maggnetic Opposites" and Soundscapes: Autumn Selection," Maggz hails from Rock City aka Rochester, New York but he currently makes his home in Columbus, Ohio. The last set of instrumentals featured titles that reflected the autumn season like "Brown Leaves" and "Late Sunrise." This time around, we get tracks like "Cold Mornings," "Slow Falling Flakes" and "Warm Fireplace." "

Robby Wildebeat :: My Salad Days, Vol. One ::
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[My Salad Days, Vol. One]
"February 10 marked the five-year anniversary of the passing of James Yancey, AKA J Dilla. Dilla was a master at pairing an obscure soul sample with crisp snares. He left behind a large body of production work and several albums, including the sold "Ruff Draft" and essential "Donuts." While he wasn't well-known during his life, he has been lionized in death, and has influenced an army of young producers. One of those producers is fellow Detroit denizen Robby Wildebeat, who has released an album of instrumentals that all owe something to the late Dilla. "My Salad Days Vol. 1" is a 26-track collection of hip-hop instrumentals built around familiar-sounding crisp snares and soul snippets. It's probably unfair to compare Wildebeat to a legendary producer, but there's no way around it. He's clearly cribbing from Dilla's stylebook, but doesn't quite have the skills or genius that made Dilla's work on the boards so amazing. This is all stuff we've heard before. Sped up soul samples? Check. Samples chopped up into abstract chunks? Check. Seventies lite-rock samples? Check. Rattling snares? Check. Wildebeat definitely doesn't break any new ground here. "

Soulbrotha :: 4letterwrd EP :: TheVine/
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[4 Letter Word]
"Early on in Soulbrotha's career fellow writer Matt Jost took a look at his "Ezekiel Hanani LP and found it wanting in some aspects while succeeding in others thanks to production from Roeg du Casq. The Nigerian born rapper has stayed busy since then, linking up with different producers and representatives along the way, until finally landing here and now in 2012 with his new "4letterwrd EP." Taking a rather personal tack, SB sent out an e-mail to let us know Whitney Houston's funeral service affected him deeply, reminding him that life and time are both precious and not to waste either. He feels that his music is a gift to share with the world, and as such "4letterwrd" is being offered to the masses as a free download. Soulbrotha's producer of choice on this seven track EP (five songs plus an intro & interlude) is Aeon, who lists Tanya Morgan as among the artists produced for to this point. The website I was linked to for Aeon was all about photography though, not music, so I don't know if it was a mistake or even the same person. Aeon's production is definitely not a mistake though. There's a light, minimalistic, upbeat swing to "Happy Valentimez." As you might expect from the title this song was first leaked on February 14th, though I suspect people will be listening to it all year long. "

SubNoize Souljaz :: Underground Collabos :: Suburban Noize Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Underground Collabos]
"It's debatable whether or not the SubNoize Souljaz are a group, since the entire roster of Suburban Noize Records qualifies for membership. "All true soldiers return to the pit" is their explanation for how and why the combinations on compilations like the two-disc "Underground Collabos" occur. Other sources have referred to the SubNoize Souljaz releases as mixtapes, and there's at least a hint of truth to that description. There are times when a mixtape can be a collection of greatest hits, obscure non-album tracks, or collaborations with other artists. In the traditional sense of either songs blended together, or a deejay shouting his name loudly over and over, this wouldn't be a "mixtape" at all. Tech N9ne fans will no doubt be happy with this compilation, especially given it doesn't repeat any songs from his own "Collabos" album. While it's true Tech N9ne is not part of the Suburban Noize roster, there's a like-minded independent hustle connection between them and the Strange Music label that frequently leads to both camps touring and recording together. As a result Nina is on three of the first five songs, the best of which is "Bollywood Chick" featuring Kottonmouth Kings & Swollen Members. In total between both discs of this set he can be found on 13 songs - nearly half of this compilation. "


[Careless World: Rise of the Last King] Tyga :: Careless World: Rise of the Last King
Young Money/Cash Money Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
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"The young Michael Ray Nguyen-Stevenson b/k/a Tyga got his jump-off in the rap game thanks to his cousin Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes fame. In turn GCH had their career launched into the stratosphere thanks to Pete Wentz of emo/punk/pop rock band Fall Out Boy, who signed the fledgling rap group and put out their "As Cruel as School Children" CD. Even if you don't know that album you know the smash hit "Cupid's Chokehold" that came from it - you know, the "Take a look at my girlfriend - she's the only one I got" song. Now this is by no means an indictment of the insular and often nepotistic world of the music industry, but I want you to ponder for a moment that without Pete Wentz one of the biggest rap hits of 2012 wouldn't exist - Tyga's "Rack City." After reading these lyrics, you can decide whether or not to thank him for it. The success of "Rack City" is for better or worse not based on its lyrical content though - it's entirely about the hypnotic baseline and finger snapping track of DJ Mustard. Tyga could have simply repeated the song's tagline or chorus for three minutes and still made a hit - in fact for large parts of the song that's exactly what he does. Perhaps that's an unfair track to judge Tyga on. "

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