Tuesday April 24, 2018

The (W)rap Up for 2012 - March [1 of 2]
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 5:00PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[No Trespassing]Too $hort :: No Trespassing
Dangerous Music

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon"It's not easy to start a Too $hort review at this point without a cliched explanation of his veteran status, an obvious acknowledgment of the size of his album catalogue, and an apology to the feminists reading for his misogynistic lyrics. Even though it's dangerous to make assumptions, I'm going to break the fourth wall here and assume you know who Todd Shaw is, and exactly what he's been about for the last 30 years+. If that turns out to not be the case, and you really need to be put on game, I recommend the following reviews from out large catalogue of coverage: "Born to Mack," "Short Dog's in the House" and "Married to the Game." Now let's move on to "No Trespassing," which is at least his 19th album, although there may be more if you count extended plays and compilations. Speaking of EP's, "Respect the Pimpin'" was partially recycled for this release along with the album "Still Blowin'." I can understand the motivation since those albums flew under the radar for some of his fans as digital-only releases. For the sake of full disclosure though you need to know that not everything on this album is brand new material. The title track of "Respect the Pimpin'" featuring Snoop Dogg is included, along with the freaktastic sex romp "Porno Bitch" from the album prior. Out of 17 tracks total that's not overkill, but it still needed to be made clear. "


various artists :: Sounds of New York, U.S.A. Volume 1 :: Queen Constance Records/Traffic Entertainment Group
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Sounds of New York, U.S.A. Volume 1]

"Things were happening fast in 1979. Once Sugar Hill Records came out with their Sugarhill Gang, everybody scrambled to put out a record. Among the first was Gabriel Jackson b/k/a Spoonie Gee, who recorded a solo platter while he was still considered a member of the Treacherous Three. His "Spoonin Rap" came out on Sound of New York, U.S.A., sharing its rhythm track with a spacey instrumental that appeared on the same label, Cloud One's "Patty Duke." Sound of New York, U.S.A. (not to be confused with Sound of New York, responsible for Indeep's club classic "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life") was one of various small labels operated by veteran record producer Peter Brown, the most prominent being P&P Records, a joint effort with fellow Harlem producer Patrick Adams. Spoonie remained his most famous rap signing (it was also very short-lived), but with dozens of - largely unknown - hip-hop tunes on his many imprints (up to 30), there's a lot to be uncovered. In 2006 Traffic Entertainment compiled a collection of Peter Brown productions patterned after an early sampler a sister label called Hit Makers of America released around early 1980 that gathered eight previously released 12-inches. Research suggests that at least three variations of the compilation were available on other Peter Brown imprints. The disc at my disposition has eleven songs, only three of which appeared on the original release. And for whatever reason there's no sight of "Spoonin Rap.""


BBU :: bell hooks :: Mad Decent/Mishka Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[bell hooks]
""bell hooks" sets up expectations which are unavoidable based on its title, and whether or not you know the author it's named after we have to address them. hooks (born Gloria Jean Watkins) is one of the leading authors, poets and activists of the last 35 years. She has written extensively on issues of gender and race inequality, has been branded both a neo-feminist and a rabble rouser, but most importantly she's known for stating her opinions and ideas with a lack of regard for the people or organizations they might attack. "Fearless" may be the word that sums her up best. To name an album after her is to imply an equally fearless experience - fiercely independent, intellectual and insightful. Songs like "The Hood" featuring GLC live up to this premise. Far from a preachy collegiate lecture though, "The Hood" is a swinging and bumping hip-hop romp thanks to a beat by the aptly named Classick. It's so catchy that it's hard to get out of your head once you hear it. That's something that more than a few of the songs on the hour long "bell hooks" have in common. I'd like to start by saluting Tony Baines, whose infectious guitar lick samples in "Jumpers" make me want to play it over and over again. He's also got an oddball futuristic style on "Kurt De La Rocha," which sounds like Seattle grunge meets folk pop meets hip-hop - and whether or not you believe it THAT WORKS. "


Big Hutch :: From Pomona With Love :: West World Records/Big Shot Music
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[From Pomona With Love]
"Gregory Hutchinson held tenures at the two most influential rap labels on the West Coast, Ruthless and Death Row. He laid down the blueprint for g-funk. He's been a recording artist for over twenty years, both as a rapper and as a producer. What's left for him to prove? Well, for instance: "Niggas always ask me, can a gangsta nigga flip on some new shit?" Big Hutch (I still call him Cold 187um) attempts to answer that question on his first free mixtape. "Otis"' soul-dripping beat and Kanye West and Jay-Z's showboating prompt him to turn up the swag as well, to the point where he promises to "update your swag / pull up with a bad bitch every nigga wish he had." And when he taunts, "Bitch, I'm royalty," you may take that as a response to the regal imagery of "Watch the Throne." "I heard they feel me in Paris too," he quips as he revisits another one of that album's songs, renamed to "Bitches Playin' Niggaz." Other than that the main message of "From Pomona With Love" is that Big Hutch is an OG and "hall of famer." Such attempts to reclaim status do carry the risk of making a rapper look desperate. Veterans like Snoop Dogg or Jay-Z have wisely avoided such obvious posturing while still giving off an air of seniority. As for the other, initially mentioned purpose of the tape, to combine an old head with new beats, it's clear that Hutch fares better with the sample-heavy "Otis" than the bare-bone "The Motto" (although it does have the raw bump of certain '90s Above the Law tracks). "


De La Soul :: Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present First Serve :: Duck Down Music Inc.
as reviewed by Matthew 'Matt G' Gutwillig

[Plug 1 & Plug 2 Present First Serve]
"In recent years, alternative hip-hop has reached an all-time high commercially. Mainstream artists like Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco and Drake have been tremendously successful with their heartfelt and emotional subject matter, while fusing various genres together in their music. Interestingly enough, in this day and age of hip-hop it is hard to find more than a few hardcore rappers achieving mainstream success. As pioneers of this progressive sub-genre for over 20 years, De La Soul emerged from an era where gangsta rap ruled supreme and alternative hip-hop artists struggled at times to sell records and receive recognition from peers and hip-hop fans alike. Amid the initial resistance toward this style of hip-hop, few artists or groups have garnered as much critical acclaim as De La Soul. For their soon to be released album "First Serve," Posdnuos (a/k/a Plug 1) and Dave (a/k/a Plug 2) attempt to take their musical ambition and fondness for crafting concept albums to another level minus third member Maseo. "First Serve" has Posdnuos portraying the character of Jacob 'Pop Life' Barrow, while Dave plays the part of Deen Whitter in a fictional story about a young rap duo struggling to succeed in the world of hip-hop. Much like film, the ability for Posdnuos and Dave to produce an interesting narrative that captivates the listener will ultimately determine whether "First Serve" is a worthwhile concept album. Luckily from the start of the record, the listener is able to immerse into the story and is given the chance to learn about the duo and relate with the various moods they feel as a result of the different situations they encounter."


K-Def :: Night Shift :: Redefinition Records
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Night Shift]
"It used to be, in the days of wayback, that beatmakers could only make a name for themselves when somebody rapped over their stuff. Then came Shadow, Krush and RJ and changed the game. Today instrumental releases are a fine way for producers to connect with the listener. Or reconnect, in some cases. Kevin Hansford b/k/a K-Def once brought a breath of fresh air into Marley Marl's House of Hits on records by Intelligent Hoodlum, Lords of the Underground and Da Youngsta's. Then came his own shot at rap game fame with partner Larry-O as Real Live in 1995. But it wasn't until ten years later that K-Def resurfaced with production for the Theodore Unit album and a curious credit on Diddy's "Press Play." His contribution to the 2008 "American Gangster" remix mania, "Real Live Gangster," left many competitors in the dust, and after releasing two volumes of "Beats From the 90's," he returned in late 2011 with a brand new EP. "Night Shift" starts with a blast from the past as K pays hommage to Pete Rock's "Main Ingredient" track "Escape" with "Escapizm." He enlists the help of Pete Rock affiliate (and "The Main Ingredient" guest) Rob-O, who brings that relaxed Mount Vernon flair to a track that is quite true to the original. Inspired by "For Pete's Sake" but very much a creation of its own, "For Def's Sake" is another nod to the Soul Brother, the added Skull Snaps drums fitting right into the evoked era of the early '90s."


Kornbread :: Strays :: Bandcamp.com
as reviewed by Pete T.

""Strays" is a bright, fresh-sounding solo debut from Those Chosen member Kornbread. Available for free download and produced entirely by fellow Californian and recent Mello Music Group signee J. Bizness, the record initially reminded me a lot of Trek Life's 2010 album "Everything Changed Nothing" for its upbeat synth-driven sound and Kornbread's nimble, talkative delivery. "First Is Last" supplies an early highlight with its uneasy piano-driven production and a commanding performance from Kornbread, who recalls a rough upbringing and its influence on his outlook. "All Day" sounds like a cut from Co$$' 2011 debut "Before I Awoke," with J. Bizness lacing a smooth piano-laden groove for a laidback Saturday afternoon. Although "Shut This Down" is lethargic, "Underneath the Cherry Skies" is a convincing declaration of perseverance and loyalty. "


Erick Sermon :: Breath of Fresh Air :: DatPiff.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Breath of Fresh Air]
"The news Erick Sermon suffered a heart attack last year hit me pretty hard, especially coming as it did just a few days after the passing of Heavy D. Nobody wants to lose two of their childhood idols and all-time hip-hop favorites in such short succession, but thankfully the Green Eyed Bandit pulled through. One could read "Breath of Fresh Air" as a celebration of his survival. Although the cover art looks like it's inspired by marijuana and boombox mixtapes, there's little doubt he had the air of life put back into his lungs at the hospital. You really can't get fresher than that. As an aside, I don't normally like to get on a soapbox about health issues, but I'd like our readers and rap legends alike to take this shit more seriously. If you're over 40, get a physical once a year. Take your vices in moderation. Nobody says you have to become a vegan hippie, but a little daily exercise isn't a bad idea, and lifting the remote to watch TV doesn't count. If anybody in music should be a caution to the dangers of drug abuse, let Whitney Houston be your example. Let's hope that the pioneers of hip-hop live to a ripe old age so that we can celebrate their achievements, while at the same time receiving their guidance to continue this music and culture. I'm done. "

[The Martyr] Immortal Technique :: The Martyr
Viper Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Immortal Technique is giving away "The Martyr" for free, so I have a suggestion as to what you can do with the dinero you saved downloading. The album samples dialogue directly from the movie "Network," and if you haven't seen it yet you probably should. Even though it's 35 years old now, it feels like it was just written and released yesterday. It's a brilliantly subversive satire that should in all honesty scare the hell out of you for how close it gets to the truth. Long before the 99% percent decided to protest on Wall Street, the protagonist Howard Beale was the original outcry of the disaffected who were "mad as hell and not going to take it any more." His protest was ultimately co-opted by the very corporations controlling our lives he was crying out against. Immortal Technique's artistic struggle is not unlike that portrayed by Peter Finch in this seminal film - trying to protest the culture we live in and the values of it while simultaneously being forced to use the tools of that system to put the message out. Despite the inherent danger that the system itself could corrupt his message, Tech has remained unrepentantly defiant, constantly flipping a middle finger at the U.S.A. and daring people to either love him or hate him. There is NO middle ground. His enemies would label him a communist or a Marxist, or a Che Guevara wannabe, without really having any understanding of who Che is or why he's inspired so many impoverished and disenfranchised people. I'm no expert myself, but the last time I checked the "Red Scare" was over, Joseph McCarthy had been dead for 55 years, and the 1st Amendment is still the law."http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2012_03F_themartyr.html

Applejaxx :: Organic :: Fadacy Music
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

"Applejaxx is the a North Carolina artists who has been making club music about Jesus for the past seven years. He has released three albums and several EPs, and has just released his latest, "Organic." As with most of his previous albums, "Organic" is a concept album, built around the idea of returning to the pure, natural, and unadulterated. Applejaxx works the organic concept for all it is worth. "Original" has a bouncing Middle Eastern beat, which Applejaxx uses to compare his flow to organic food. The metaphor is pretty tortured, but the beat is banging. "Got Jesus" uses passing up pastries for whole food while grocery shopping as a metaphor for choosing God. "BlueBerry Slangin'" has a wicked Southern rap beat, and Applejaxx raps about accepting God, with blueberry slanging representing the fruits of his faith. The more Applejaxx tries to shoehorn his raps into the organic concept, the weaker his rhymes are. It's when he ditches the idea of being organic that he delivers his best rhymes. "Runnin'" is one of the stronger tracks. It's a slower song built around a gorgeous R&B hook with Applejaxx rapping about working hard to overcome the struggles in life. He ends the album with "Live Fresh," which has a bugged-out beat and some of Applejaxx's strongest rapping. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2012_03_organic.html

B. Durazzo :: Beats Vol. 1 :: Bandcamp.com
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Beats Vol. 1]
"Benjamin Durazzo is a 23-year-old hip-hop producer who teaches middle school kids music when he's not in front of his MPC. For those of you not familiar with the San Francisco Bay Area, Oakland is sort of what Brooklyn is to New York City. The cheaper rent and larger spaces has made it a haven for artists, hipsters, and anyone not working a full-time white collar job. The art scene has blown up in recent years, and Oakland is home to one of the most intense and active Occupy movements outside of New York. If you are a cool kid in the Bay Area, you most likely live in Oakland. Oakland also has a more vibrant hip-hop scene than San Francisco, mostly because more musicians can actually afford to live and record there. Too $hort, Tupac, Mac Dre and Del tha Funky Homosapien all called Oakland home at some point. This 16-track beattape from B. Durazzo is continuing Oakland's hip-hop legacy. Durazzo is a producer in the Blockhead vein of hip-hop producers. He uses samples from non-traditional sources and goes for a vibe that is mellow and melancholy instead of hyped up. It's about as far from mobb music or hyphy as you can get and still be from the same town. The backbone of all of the songs are crisp drums that sound live. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2012_03_durazzobeatsv1.html

Defari :: Focused Daily :: Tommy Boy Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Aaron Boyce

[Focused Daily]
"I decided to revisit Defari's 1999 debut LP after I came across a couple of references to it on the site but without an actual review in the archives. I remember frequently bumping this album back when it dropped as well as a few times since and wondered whether it would stand up to scrutiny thirteen years later or if nostalgia was getting the better of me. Back when this was released the Likwit Crew had one of the strongest cliques in the game. With Tha Alkaholiks, Xzibit, Lootpack, King T and Defari along with the closely affiliated Dilated Peoples and Strong Arm Steady, the Likwit Crew had a whole bunch of talented MCs and dope producers. Any crew that can call on in-house production from Madlib, Evidence and E-Swift as well as rhymes from Tash, J-Ro, Xzibit and Iriscience had some serious strength in depth. The fact that many of these artists have gone on to enjoy solo success away from the Likwit umbrella speaks volumes about just how talented this particular crew were. Defari's career sadly never reached the heights of an Xzibit or an Evidence but his story is well known. Complete with a bachelor's degree from California and a master's degree from New York, Defari spent many years as a teacher of both history and geography at Inglewood High School in California before his hip-hop career took over and he swapped the classroom for the studio. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/BTTL_focuseddaily.html

D-N.Y.C. & Yung Steez :: Under the Radar Mixtape :: Team C.A.M.
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Under the Radar Mixtape]

"First and foremost I want to thank D-N.Y.C. & Yung Steez for taking the time to do an interview with me for RapReviews.com last week. They were not forewarned about the possibility ahead of time - they were there to be the local act opening for the Black Cloud Tour. Despite being caught off guard they took full advantage of the opportunity and delivered with a 15 minute conversation talking about their hustle, creating music with meaning, and even making some predictions about Nebraska football. After the interview they handed me a copy of this "Under the Radar Mixtape," which includes songs they were performing live that night. Now it would be easy for a grizzled reviewer like me to snark on the cover art, but I realize that as young up-and-coming rappers they don't necessarily have the budget to drop bills on a graphic designer. I can respect that because after all the music matters more than the artwork; the beats and the rhymes take precedence over having CD bling. It's definitely a homebrew CD-R affair, but again I applaud the hustle of them actually HAVING physical product at the show. So many times a local act opening for a national tour doesn't have the confidence to promote themselves or the moxie to bring their own merch. Since Yung Steez & D-N.Y.C. did, that puts them a half-step ahead of the rest. There are two stand-out tracks on the "Under the Radar" mixtape out of six songs total. When I ripped the CD to iTunes it actually had seven tracks, but the "Intro" doesn't really get into anything that you could call a song - it's just a shoutout to who they are and their ambition to be "Climbin' Charts" that's slightly over a minute long. As a set-up for "Underdogs (How I'm Feelin')" though it'll do fine since that's one of the aforementioned stand-outs. " http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2012_03_undertheradarmixtape.html

Shabazz Palaces :: Black Up :: Sub Pop Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Black Up]"Shabazz Palaces came out of nowhere two years ago shrouded in mystery. They released two solid EPs, and generated buzz in their hometown Seattle with their live act, no small feat considering it's basically two dudes fiddling with a laptop. Finally it came out that the man behind Shabazz Palaces was Ishmael Butler, aka Butterfly from 90s jazz rap group Digable Planets. Evidently F. Scott Fitzgerald didn't know what the hell he was talking about when he said "There are no second acts in American lives." I wrote a glowing review of one of Shabazz Palaces EPs. It was an excellent album that pushed hip-hop in interesting directions. "Black Up" came out last March and improved upon the template that Butler had laid down with their EPs. The album is produced by Shabazz Palaces, and it is blunted out and claustrophobic. Everything is soaked in a warm, throbbing bass, with tinges of melodies and an undercurrent of menace throughout. It's not totally unlike the Digible Planets' second album, but takes the dark funk of "Blowout Comb" and feeds it through an electronic processor, giving it a contemporary sound. "http://www.rapreviews.com/archive/2012_03_shabazzblackup.html

Soul Khan :: Wellstone EP :: Brown Bag AllStars
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Wellstone EP]
"R.I.P. Anthony Williams. That's the second song I've heard throw him a shoutout in as many days, but even as we inexorably march toward the third anniversary of his passing, the tributes are welcome. We do tend to immortalize the ones who affected us, and I for one hope I won't have to do the same for Soul Khan any time soon. From the first time I heard him on a Brown Bag AllStars single, his voice grabbed my attention and refused to relinquish it. I understand it's a little froggy for some, but then the late great Guru had his detractors too. And like the Gifted Unlimited, Soul Khan uses his vocals to say something "About Something," making sure every word matters. Soul Khan enjoys being the unconventional emcee vocally and lyrically, and it shows on every track of the "Wellstone EP." On "Not Like That" featuring Akie Bermiss, he openly mocks men who are too macho to perform cunniligus, and so misogynistic they have to proclaim they "love no hoe" on every song. Quoth Khan: "It's obvious though! Cause if you did, you wouldn't be callin 'em hoes." Say word. He's not above being a braggart though, as you'll hear him say he can "swim through piranhas and shake 'em off" on the churchly inspired "Khangregation." On the title track of "Wellstone" he spits "I'm takin every shot 'til the buzzer beeps/and touchin every base 'til I stub my cleats." He's a multi-sport baller, and if you count hip-hop as a sport too that means he's up to 3. "


Big K.R.I.T. :: 4evaNaDay :: LiveMixtapes.com
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace[4evaNaDay]
"Andre 3000 once famously quipped, "forever never seems that long, until you're grown." Well, for Meridian, Mississippi's own Big K.R.I.T. it seems like it's going to take forever for his major label debut album to see the light of day. It could be label politics over at Def Jam, it could be sample clearance issues. It's hard to say. I don't really know if it's bothering Big K.R.I.T. that much though, as he continues to do what he does best, gaining fans in the process of it all. Just shy of one year ago, Krizzle released "Return of 4Eva," the follow up to the critically (no pun intended) acclaimed "K.R.I.T. Wuz Here." The project did well and I even listed it in my top five releases of the year. It came in at number two, behind Killer Mike's "Pl3dge." Having the past as a reminder of what K.R.I.T. is capable of, the question becomes whether or not he can continue to display the talent that got him selected as one of XXL's Top 10 Freshmen in 2011. I'm pleased to report that Justin Scott doesn't appear to have lost a step with this project. Personal, heartfelt lyrics and soulful production have been key factors in K.R.I.T. building the following that he has amassed up to this point in his career, and this time around he's coming with much of the same. After the brief intro on "8:04AM," things kick off with "Wake Up." The track features Willie B on saxophone and hits on the oft-discussed topic by K.R.I.T. of waking up and actually making things happen...even if it's at the expense of missing a few phone calls because "being broke ain't fun" and the pity party he's thrown for himself starts to get a bit dull after awhile. "



[Klusterfuk EP]Tech N9ne :: Klusterfuk EP
Strange Music Inc.

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"If Aaron Yates wasn't constantly busy, I don't think he'd know what to do with himself. He's a relentlessly increasing ball of energy, and the only way to siphon off that excess output is to hit the studio and keep recording music. That's why just four months after dropping "Welcome to Strangeland" and nine months after releasing the MASSIVE "All 6's and 7's" album, Tecca Nina is back with six more tracks and a "Klusterfuk" EP. This time he's enlisted the help of the ˇMayday! crew to provide all of the production. If you've heard the "Strangeland" album you will already be familiar with them, but there's fair chance you'd recognize Wrekonize from miscellaneous underground rap records regardless. Anyway N9ne uses the opening and titular track from this album to explain the whole "Klusterfuk" concept. Tech validates any confusion he may feel emotionally or musically as a result, and in turn you as a listener are expected to do the same when you consider his range of influences - everything from punk rock to Beethoven. The thing is that this prolific rapper has never needed any validation - not from critics, not from the music industry, not from his fans or anyone else. He left the same people who said a top flight rap star couldn't be from Kansas City in the dust ten million records sold ago. Tech's listeners have long since embraced his contradictions, as have his fellow artists, which is why he can count everybody from Lil Wayne to the SubNoize Souljaz as his homies."


various artists :: Giant Single: The Profile Records Rap Anthology :: Legacy Recordings/Sony Music
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Giant Single: The Profile Records Rap Anthology]
"When it comes to being present across several critical periods of hip-hop history, Profile Records has little competition (Tommy Boy and Def Jam, mainly). The 31 songs collected on "Giant Single: The Profile Records Rap Anthology" span from 1981 to 1996. The sampler contains platinum singles, hip-hop anthems, huge and historical crossover tracks, influential old school tunes, funky joints, war chants, genius raps, broken language and plenty of jams that simply got mad play in their day. It features hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, music mogul Andre Harrell, DMC World Champion DJ Cheese, tape editing masters the Latin Rascals and dearly departed musicians Pumpkin, Rammellzee, Jam Master Jay, Masterdon, Tony D and Big DS. Where to begin? From a personal and a historical perspective I'd begin with Run-D.M.C., the legendary trio from Hollis, Queens, that conquered the world in the name of rap music in the mid-'80s. As any legit anthology should, however, "Giant Single" delivers the tracks chronologically, so that you get the proper 'historical perspective' concerning Profile Records. Additionally, writer Dan Charnas and witnesses such as Dante Ross, Kenny Dope or Bobbito tell the Profile story in the liner notes. Profile's achievements are extraordinary. It was, to quote Charnas, 'The first record label to produce true rap "stars" who crossed over to the mainstream. The first to earn gold, platinum and multi-platinum rap albums. The first to get rap videos on MTV.' How'd they do it? Business aspects aside, what played no small part in this reviewer's humble opinion was the specific quality of the sound and the overall musical quality."


CY :: High Wire Act :: Complex Melodies Productions/Much Luvv Records
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[High Wire Act]

"As someone who is not very religious, I rarely find myself venturing into the realm of Christian hip-hop. I have no problem with the message that artists are trying to convey, and while there are some exceptions, my inability to relate to some of the lyrics makes it difficult to fully appreciate the music. In addition, some artists seem more focused on preaching their message of spirituality than on making quality music, and while their lyrics are certainly meaningful, it often makes for a one-dimensional album. I was interested, then, to see where CY's latest album would fall along the spectrum of Christian rap, as it was clear after listening to just a few cuts that his talent level was not in question. Rather, I wondered whether "High Wire Act" would be too spiritually-oriented to appeal to a more casual listener such as myself. CY's skills as an emcee are evident from the very opening track, "Musical Castle," as he raps with the hunger and aggression of an artist who has something to prove. Over heavy organ chords and ominous cackling and chanting scattered throughout the background, CY paints a picture with three verses full of vivid imagery. Although the second track, "Work For Hire," is less impressive, with lackluster synths and piano keys and a simple drum pattern that has a very synthetic sound, CY bounces back on the album's title track. A catchy drum loop and a driving brassy bassline lay the foundation for the head-bobber, with short, funky electronic synths to complement."


Jonwayne :: Oodles of Doodles :: Stones Throw Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Oodles of Doodles]
"Jonwayne is a Los Angeles-based rapper and producer who has been part of that city's Low End Theory for a while. He released his first beat tape, "Bowser," last year, and has put out several mixtapes. "Oodles of Doodles" collects two CDs worth of beats. Jonwayne is part of the same hip-hop/electronica scene that has produced Flying Lotus, Schlohmo, and Nosaj Thing, and he's on the same label that has released hip-hop instrumentals by Madlib, J Dilla, Oh No, and Dam-Funk. Jonwayne tries to meld these two worlds, combining IDM with funky, blunted out hip-hop.

Being that his first album was titled after Mario's nemesis Bowser and the cover used the Super Mario World font, it's no surprise that 16-bit sounds are all over "Oodles of Doodles." There is some dark, Mario-style funk on "I For Kutmah." "Dat Ass" sounds like a booty jam Samus would bump on her way to Zebes to kill some metroids. "Stellar by Starlight" sounds like the sexed-up end theme from a Final Fantasy game. Imagine if the dudes composing music for the Super Nintendo had been hip-hop fans with a medical marijuana card, and you've got Jonwayne. There is a languid, stoned swagger to the beats. The drums hit just a little bit slower than you'd expect them to, which makes the whole album sound a little off kilter and unsettling. While there are some banging beats here, I didn't enjoy listening to this as much as I wanted to. Part of that might be that I'm not a huge fan of video game music. Ever since my NES days I would turn the sound down and my stereo up."


Iron Solomon :: Monster :: 3D Distribution
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"From the name you might think Iron Solomon was a member of the Wu-Tang Clan's extended fam; and in his bio Solomon does mention them as one of his artistic inspirations. He also credits N.W.A. and Nirvana as influences along with "New York City’s multi-cultural patchwork." It probably goes without saying that he's got a diverse range of influences. It might also go without saying that he's caucasian, something you might not immediately pick up on while listening to "Monster," but if you Google his name looking for a Wiki page one of the first hits you get is "7 White Rappers Way Better than Eminem and Asher Roth." So instead of trying to pretend there's not an elephant in the room, let's just put him in the same category as Action Bronson and be done with it. Solomon is a serious emcee collaborating WITH serious emcees like Talib Kweli on songs like "The Empire". Now I don't know about "way better than Eminem" per se, but I'd be willing to put him at or above Asher Roth, who I find relatively enjoyable but occasionally lacking the competitive cojones his urban counterparts have. Iron Solomon might be a N.W.A. fan, but he sounds like the New York City that he comes from, both in accent and in his attitude."


Ja Rule :: PIL 2 :: MPire/Fontana Distribution
as reviewed by Pete T.

[PIL 2]
"February 28, 2012 was a significant day in the life of Jeffrey Atkins. Not only was it the onetime chart-topper's 36th birthday, it was also the release date of "PIL 2," his first album in eight years, billed as a sequel to his 2001 multi-platinum smash "Pain Is Love" and released during an extended jail bid for the Queens native. Releasing sequels to their respective opuses has become commonplace among New York's fading stars - in recent years we've seen everything from "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. 2," "H.N.I.C. Pt. 2," and "The War Report 2" to "The Hunger for More 2," "Bacdafucup Part 2," and "J.O.S.E. 2" - and for Ja seemingly signals a desperate attempt to cling to relevance even if it does place him among solid company. I was eleven years old when "Pain Is Love" took control of my New York-area airwaves. It might be no surprise, then, that it remains a sentimental favorite of mine. (I'd say I had a soft spot for it, but what other kind of spot can you have for Ja? Pete's got jokes!) While I'll forever hold dear the afternoons whiled away playing "Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2" with my sixth grade friends accompanied by "Pain Is Love" on the boombox, I'm confident that it was a bigger, better, and more influential album than most would care to admit or remember more than a decade on. Knocking none other than "The Blueprint" from atop the Billboard charts, "Pain Is Love" boasted no fewer than four top ten singles, almost singlehandedly propelled Jennifer Lopez into the J.Lo and Jenny From the Block we know and love, and made Miss Ashanti S. Douglas a household name."


Perfeck Strangers :: Series Premiere :: URBNET Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Series Premiere]
"Let me just say straight up that Perfect Strangers is one of my favorite sitcoms of all time. I suppose it doesn't hurt that I grew up as a child of the 1980's, in a house that didn't have cable TV, and Lord knows 300 baud dial-up modems didn't make for a thrilling internet experience. For entertainment that didn't involve a paperback novel or an original (brick) GameBoy, watching the antics of Larry and Balki on Wednesday or Friday nights was about as good as it gets. Just give me a sandwich, a soda and a bowl of popcorn and I was good to go. Not watching my favorite show? "DON'T BE RIDICULOUS!!!" You'd have just about much luck asking me to turn off Doctor Who or The A-Team, but those are topics for another review. Besides it's conceptually easy to base a rap group on two distant cousins coming together to collaborate, though on the first single "Ghetto" that theme was put in the background as Promise & Dan-e-o focused on social commentary. Even though it may come off as harsh in print, there's actually a whimsy and humor to the song, thanks to the harmonica and the harmony plus a collaborative third verse about "a mindset that's monumental" like "shiny rims on the car (but) he can't drive you far cause his license was lost, there's nothing in the bank, so he's got an empty tank - now that's ghetto." It was a good introduction to the duo collaborating though, especially for those who know Dan-e-o better as a soloist, and "Series Premiere" is an excellent follow-up."

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