Wednesday June 20, 2018

The (W)rap Up for 2012 - July [1 of 2]
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 7:00PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[The Grustle]Lil Scrappy :: The Grustle
G'$ Up/Fontana/Universal Music

Author: Matthew 'Matt G' Gutwillig

Click here to find out more!

"With its rowdy lyrics, heavily synthesized and bass style, crunk music reached its peak in popularity during the early to mid 2000's. It dominated the pop charts thanks in large part to rap groups like Three 6 Mafia, Ying Yang Twins and Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz. Even singers like Usher, Ciara and Chris Brown blended R&B with crunk (crunk&B) to scorch the radio waves. As a protégé of Lil Jon, Lil Scrappy has been known for a few crunk hits of his own over the years such as "Head Bussa," "No Problem" and "Money in the Bank." The Atlanta rapper's fourth solo album "Tha Grustle," exhibits Scrappy's attempt to balance his hardcore style with crossover appeal. "Face Off" starts the album with a bang through its menacing synth, pounding bass and sped-up high hats. Lil Scrappy raps aggressively as he utters death threats to his foes with conviction. "Democrat" is also an effective street joint where the rapper talks about hood politics associated with the dope game. "No L's" features a nice chopped-up synth as Scrappy flosses about his reckless lifestyle of riding around town without a driver's license while staying high and strapped. "

Maundz :: Zero :: Obese Distribution/Crate Cartel
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

"The influence of early nineties New York hip-hop on Australian hip-hop is so pronounced that you can probably track down a Patient Zero who was the first one to start bringing over records by Gang Starr, the Wu-Tang Clan, Jeru The Damaja, and the D.I.T.C. crew from New York to Melbourne. From the Australian hip-hop albums I've heard, I get the sense that they never experienced the jiggy era, never got seduced by the slippery drawl of Southern rap, and haven't traded their MPC's for Fruit Loops yet. On his sophomore album "Zero," Melbourne MC Maundz keeps it true school, Aussie style.

Maundz is from the rowdy, shit-kicking school of MCs that include Vinnie Paz, M.O.P, and DMX. He yells his rhymes like threats, and seems just as likely to give rival MCs an actual beatdown as a verbal beatdown. The epitome of this is "Maundzilla," where he imagines himself as a Godzilla-sized rapper. While Maundz barking flow brings energy, it lacks finesse. Even on mellower, downtempo tracks like "Take It Back" he's still rapping at 11, sounding like he's about to rip someone's head off. The limitations to his style are made clear on "All Quotes" when Action Bronson shows up to give some Ghostface-inspired verses. Maundz rhymes are as complex as Action Bronsons, but the Australian rapper's delivery lacks the style of the former chef from Brooklyn. Of course, criticizing Maundz for lacking finesse might be like critizing a boxer for sucking at ballet. "

Max Burgundy :: The Murder of Mark Fuhrman :: Oreos For Breakfast
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[The Murder of Mark Fuhrman]
"Max Burgundy has perhaps the most intriguing back-story of any artist I've reviewed in recent memory. Born and raised in the Bronx, Burgundy's first major obstacle was the loss of his father, who was murdered right across the street from his home, causing his mother to move the family to Southern California. Torn between his love for basketball and the dangerous gang culture the pervaded the area, Burgundy took a somewhat lackadaisical approach toward high school and ended up pursuing his basketball career at a local community college. It was there that he discovered his interest in philosophy, and he ultimately parlayed this interest into an Ivy League education, which was unfortunately cut short by a drug distribution charge that led to his expulsion. With this in mind, I was interested to see what kind of persona Burgundy would take on as an emcee and, more specifically, whether he would stick to his East Coast roots or adopt more of a West Coast flow. It's clear from the beginning that Burgundy doesn't shy away from his troubled past, and his willingness to open up and vent his frustration allows the listener to better understand all the Burgundy has overcome thus far in life. The opening track, "Momma Tol Me," sees Burgundy spit about the pressure his mother put on him growing up to succeed and make money, and the lack of any percussion to accompany the crooning orchestral strings ensures the spotlight is centered on his lyricism."

MellowHype :: BlackenedWhite :: Odd Future/Fat Possum Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"It was my original intention to review the free download version of MellowHype's "BlackenedWhite," but like so many of the links on their tumblr it seems to no longer exist. That's not entirely their fault as the federales seized MegaUpload for serving up free movies and pirated albums in limitless quantities, and even when alternate services are used the demand from Odd Future fans is so overwhelming it can cause the files to be pulled for violating TOS. So let's take it from the officially licensed version that came out on Fat Possum Records. As "64" was the lead single for the re-release it probably serves as well as a representative of this album as any track. Hodgy Beats lyrical style on both solo and group releases for the Wolf Gang is somewhat less macabre than Tyler, the Creator and not as intentionally graphic as Earl Sweatshirt, but does show tendencies of both on this song. Producer Left Brain emphasizes this feel with a dark and eerie beat that makes this a purposefully ODD choice for a single - it's not the kind of rap you can do a dance move to. There are certainly other songs you could bob your head or tap your feet to though such as "Rico" featuring Frank Ocean."

Rosco :: The Album :: Wide World The Label
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[The Album]
"Where is Tupac? No seriously. Where is he? After the icon's death in 1996 rappers scrambled to take his place, among them a number of straight impostors. While there was no apparent heir to his throne, some managed to approximate the fervor and passion - particularly DMX and Eminem. Every year since the media discusses the legacy he left behind. But despite one of the genre's biggest stars hollering something about 'Tupac back' only last year, newcomers seem content with inking their body in Pac fashion and largely ignore the artistic templates he set. Instead we get startingly unimaginative releases like Rosco's "The Album." Not to be confused with Kurupt's younger brother Roscoe, or Star Trak affiliate Rosco P. Coldchain, or Roscoe Dash of "All the Way Turnt Up" fame, or even Cali vet Rasco, Rosco seems to be located in Atlanta, GA, but that's pretty much all I can tell you about him. Apart from him being a ladies man, at least that's to be concluded from several songs. But besides that? Let's take "Why I Grind." Seems like a potentially informative track, right? "I take a look at my past (...) it remind me why I grind," he begins, but then completely forgets to share what he sees when he looks back. He's quite right when he observes, "Things you achieved, can't nobody erase 'em," but again he keeps those achievements all to himself. "

Vell Bakardy :: Genuine Liqua Hits :: Wild West/American Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Genuine Liqua Hits]
"By the time he made his national debut in 1995, Lavell Franklin was already a veteran of the Kansas City rap scene. Having made the rounds as DRV (Def Rhyme Vocalist) in the later '80s, at one point he hooked up with local DJ/producer Joc Max, with whom he recorded the song "Bust a Move," which was pressed up and distributed by L.A. label Macola in 1989. Later still, now known as Vell Bakardy, he formed Tha Drunx with partner in rhyme Zeno Vellie. While living in Los Angeles, around 1993 he scored a solo deal with Wild West, who was in a partnership with Rick Rubin's American Recordings, providing Vell Bakardy with national exposure. Although "Genuine Liqua Hits" had a West Coast-leaning sound and featured AMG twice, the album was ostensibly the product of Kansas City, MO. Tres-nueve would be 39th Street, one of the city's main streets and frequently referenced location ("the Nine") on "Genuine Liqua Hits." Vell's portrayal of KC isn't particularly flattering. In the "Intro" he laments that "ain't nowhere else to go but to the liquor store, sit on the side of the building and get drunk, you know - Kansas City, Missouri." Consequently, the lead single was called "Drink Wit' Me," and it too stressed the apparent importance of alcohol in 39th Street's social life. By the time Bakardy admits that the morning after he hears voices saying, "Vell, come back to the liquor store," you know he has a problem. "

Young Zee & Mr. Green :: One Crazy Weekend :: Ruff Cutz Media/Green Music Group
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[One Crazy Weekend]
"Inevitably when discussing "One Crazy Weekend" the subject of "Musical Meltdown" is going to come up, so let's just address it right now. Over 15 years ago now, somewhere between his star making appearance on The Fugees' track "Cowboys" and the EP he released with the Outsidaz crew, Zee recorded an entire album for Perspective Records that for unknown reasons never got released. Complicating matters is the fact that Perspective had a very short shelf life as a label, not even lasting a whole decade, and whatever was left of the imprint was absorbed into A&M Records in 1999, and they in turn were absorbed into the Universal Music Group, and... well I think you get the idea. You either own a bootleg of "Musical Meltdown" or you don't, because at this point the original masters might as well not exist. There's never going to be an official release because there's no financial incentive for anybody at Universal to sort out the legal quagmire of who owns what, let alone press up and issue a rap album that no matter how critically acclaimed would sound dated compared to hip-hop in 2012 and would not move major units. I'm a cynical bastard when it comes to labels profiting off artists and even I will admit they couldn't turn a dime on "Musical Meltdown" at this point. "

[The Stoned Immaculate]Curren$y :: The Stoned Immaculate
Warner Bros. Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
Click here to find out more!

"Shante Scott Franklin b/k/a Curren$y has come a long way since starting out as a member of Master P's 504 Boyz group, a rather random collection of rappers from P's hometown area code. The group was thrown together at a point when No Limit Records was losing its luster and going through the first of several repacking and restructuring efforts. No matter how many times words like "New" and "Forever" have been added to the label's name, Percy Miller has not been able to recapture the glory days of the 1990's, where a new album came out seemingly every week and every round out the tank was a hit. Curren$y could have sank like the Titanic sized collapse that was No Limit, just another forgotten passenger on the list whose career froze in those iced out waters, but fortunately for him there was room on a lifeboat. His early origins have been mostly forgotten save for the writers of this website, and a series of successful mixtapes paved the way for his reintroduction to the general public with a major label retail album. The albums reflect one theme that has become predominant for Curren$y - in fact one could punfully say that his condition is CHRONIC based on the titles. Weed has definitely been good to Shante. Instead of sounding like a rapper 10 years older than his 504 Boyz debut, he sounds like a contemporary to other drug obsessed emcees like A$AP Rocky, ScHoolboy Q and Smoke DZA among others."

[Wild Ones]
Flo Rida :: Wild Ones
Poe Boy Music Group/Atlantic Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
Click here to find out more!

"Originally conceived as a sequel to his album "Only One Flo (Part 1)," Flo Rida's new album "Wild Ones" was repackaged and retitled based on the runaway success of the single it's named after. The dominance the song has had on the pop charts, radio airwaves and mainstream outlets has reached the point where I hear my hip-hop friends bitching about it on a daily basis. I guess that puts me in the minority then because even when the soFLY, Nius & Axwell song peaked by being used as an official theme song for WrestleMania 28 I wasn't tired of it then, and I'm still not now. Sia's singing clearly plays a huge part in that, but in general it's just a bouncy and inoffensive bit of hip-pop that's easy to bop to.Generally speaking that's my opinion of Flo Rida (born Tramar Dillard) as a whole. Though his hip-hop roots and his imposing physique suggest a more thuggish persona, the songs he releases couldn't be further from hardcore. Most of his recent chart topping singles can be found here, including the Dr. Luke produced smash hit "Good Feeling". The album's newer tracks which have yet to chart fit perfectly into Flo Rida's pop rap formula. People tend to use that word like it's an indictment, as if being "formulaic" is inherently bad, but I don't find anything bad about the hard driving dance beat or Jennifer Lopez crooning of "Sweet Spot." "

various artists ::
Soul 7 :: Now-Again Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Soul 7]
"This is a review of the digital reissue of a 7" box set reissue of seven obscure funk singles from the seventies. It is also one of the first releases given to subscribers of Now-Again Records new subscription service on ( For fifteen bucks a month, subscribers get every Now-Again release two weeks before release date, plus lots of extras. Now-Again is an offshoot of Stones Throw, and is a labor of love from funk archaeologist Egon Alappat, who has made it his mission to find the rarest, most obscure funk and soul albums from across the world and give them proper reissues, as well as releasing albums by current artists. With that plug for Now-Again out of the way, let's get to the music. This set collects fourteen songs by seven funk and soul artists from the seventies. The artists are Ernie and the Top Notes, Inc., Booker T. Averheart, the Soul Vibrations, the Soul Seven, Bad Medicine, Billy Ball and the Upsetters, and the Soul Commanders. The only way you've heard of any of these groups is if your uncle was in one of them or if you are an obsessive rare music collector. They came from Dallas, Cincinnati, Syracuse and beyond. They released a single or two, played some local gigs, and then faded into obscurity. They hung up their tinseled jumpsuits and got regular jobs, giving up their dreams of making it big. Booker T. Averheart went on to build and airport and run a motel, among other enterprises. Collectors scrounged for their singles and sold them for beaucoup bucks, of which the artists saw exactly nothing. And then one day, a skinny white guy shows up at their doorstep asking if he could reissue their music. The result was the 2001 "Funky 16 Corners" compilation and this lovingly curated collection." />archive/2012_07_soul7.html

various artists ::
URBNET Certified Vol. 3 :: URBNET Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[URBNET Certified Vol. 3]
"URBNET compilations tend to be known for a relative insularity to their own label roster and to the Canadian hip-hop scene they rep - and neither of those things is to their detriment. When many of their American contemporaries seem trapped in paradigms of rap stardom that stopped working years ago, groups like Animal Nation are able to reinvent what hip-hop music has the potential to be, reminding us of the truly limitless potential of the art and culture so many of us grew up in love with. In my lighter moments I speculate on the reasons why this happens - maybe it's the socialized medicine, maybe it's the colder climate making everybody hustle harder, or maybe it's the quality of the beer eh? I kid, but there's no doubting songs like "Wooden Roller Coaster" are hip-hop's future looking forward.Frequent URBNET consumers have come to expect a certain group of names to be represented on these releases, and won't be disappointed to see they're here. D-Sisive's melancholic cover of Naughty By Nature on "Ghetto Bastard" is a treat, Moka Only answers his own question on the funky synthesized sounds of "The Why Song," and the latest Canadian dynamic duo of Perfeck Strangers (Dan-e-o and Promise) have some "Work to Do" on a superbly hype bouncy beat. So in short it's no surprise that the expected names like Kae Sun (singing his way through "When the Pot") or Wordburglar (going Scooby Doo like MF DOOM on the track "Fred Broca") come through, but there are also some pleasant surprises." />archive/2012_07_urbnetcertified3.html

Blanco & Yukmouth ::
Cookies 'n Cream :: Guerrilla Entertainment
as reviewed by Matt Jost[Cookies 'n Cream]
"The more things change, the more they stay the same. In 1995 Yukmouth scored the biggest crossover weed anthem ever with his partner Numskull, "I Got 5 on It." The song yielded a legendary 'Bay Ballas Remix' that featured a near-complete Bay Area all-star line-up. Fast forward to 2012 and Smoke-A-Lot still serenades Mary Jane, sharing the spliff once more with fellow Bay Ballas Dru Down and Richie Rich (completed by E-40 stand-in B-Legit). This time the smokefest is called "Airheads," the first song on "Cookies 'n Cream," the Oakland rep's collaboration project with Blanco and Cookin' Soul.Unlike Yukmouth himself the latter may need an introduction. Cookin' Soul are a production team from Spain whose beats get picked by a variety of US rappers, from Harlem's 40 Cal in '07 to Hollygrove's Fiend in '12. Blanco is a Berkeley, CA rapper who has been putting out mixtapes since '08, notably the Cookin' Soul-scored "Portrait of a Serial Killer" last year. It's certainly an interesting set-up - a rookie and a vet from the West Coast on the mic with Europeans behind the boards. The outcome, however, is fairly conventional. That's not to say that everything is business as usual. Even in an age where the topic of smoking is more popular than ever with rappers, "Airheads" is an exceptional piece, an epic 8-minute soul suite with five inspired rappers celebrating the virtues of dank and drank." />archive/2012_07_cookiesncream.html
Clavius Crates :: 19 Years ::
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[19 Years]
"Clavius Crates from the Tree City crew got an immediate spin thanks to two different factors - one of which is that I haven't heard enough from them since The TreE.P. and the other is that I still have a soft spot in my heart for Ann Arbor having lived in Ypsilanti, Michigan over a decade ago. It's a really beautiful part of the country, and even though the cost of living there far exceeds the meager amount of dollars I pull in ad revenue and Amazon Associates album sales, I can honestly say I'd love to live there again. The hip-hop scene in Eastern Michigan still continues to be underrated and overlooked, even with the breakout success of artists ranging from Eminem to MC Breed (R.I.P.) and underground rappers still get heavily slept on. Speaking of those meager earnings, I'm glad "19 Years" was made available at a "name your own price" level. I admit I entered $0.00 and took the free download, but if I can be a hypocrite, my advice is to do as I say and not as I do. I'd offer him at least $5, because this is 15 tracks of quality hip-hop music, and that averages out to only 33 cents or so apiece - still an incredibly good deal. Crates self-produces a lot of these tracks and doesn't come incorrect in the process. "Classically Trained" featuring Silas Green is a wonder, changing up instrumental themes from verse to verse, while bookmarking the entire presentation with a symphonic orchestra sound. "Apocalypse" featuring Fowl is a bugged out sinister banger that musically and lyrically reminds me of Young Zee." />archive/2012_07_19years.html

Dem One & B.O.O.K.S. One ::
The New Math EP :: Low Self Discipline Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The New Math EP]
"For the past few months the rapper/producer team of Dem One and B.O.O.K.S. One have been hitting me up with promo videos and information to throw up on the RapReviews newsfeed. Now if I can "shoot" as the wrestlers say for a minute with you the reader, I get so many of these things that I often just regurgitate whatever gets sent my way without having the time to check out or appreciate the value of what I get sent. It's the curse of being self-employed with a large website and an inbox that's constantly flooded with people looking for attention or a review - you have to just keep shit moving before the next 100 e-mails comes in. Somewhere along the way though, I actually stopped to check out a video from The New Math though, and to my surprise they won me over right away. Personality makes a huge difference when you're trying to stand out from an overcrowded genre, and clearly Dem and B.O.O.K.S. had plenty. It probably didn't hurt that I was also amused by the title of their record label - Low Self Discipline. A sense of humor also helps to make you stand out from the crowd, and as emcees go Dem One is definitely wittier than the average. He's got more math in the book than just comedy though - he's got a strong braggadocious style I can get down with due to his confidence on "Vapor.""

[Life Is Good]Nas :: Life Is Good
Def Jam

Author: Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania"One can't help but feel that perhaps "Life Is Good" should have had a question mark placed on the end of that album title: the artwork says it all, with Nas looking pristine in the VIP section of a club, all alone, holding the only thing the Kelis left behind – part of her green wedding dress. Really, Mr Jones? Life is good? Well, an hour in the company of QB's finest demonstrates his willingness to back his proclamation up, as he proceeds to tell us: "I shouldn't even be smiling, I should be angry and depressed, I've been rich longer than I've been broke, I confess." It's a revealing line (taken from "Loco-Motive"), given that it mixes optimism with self-awareness, a lack of self-awareness with contradiction, and an unusual amount of ego – breaking the golden rule of writing, Nas uses "I" or "I've" five times in two lines. That's not unusual over the course of LIG, and it certainly hints at a genuinely personal album, the likes of which we've rarely seen from the legend, aside from the criminally underrated "God's Son" released a decade ago. Shrouded in mystery, he finally allows us a glimpse into his psyche, and as he says in the brilliantly titled "No Introduction" you should be prepared for a no holds barred fifteen rounds through the mind of a genius: he pretends to be civilized whilst secretly plotting a revolution; he reminisces on chilling in the Lex with Biggie; he wants us to love/hate/judge him; he sends this out to Kelis… Nas uses stark reality to craft his art, and that is the mark of a true artist. The feel of LIG is suitably epic, with moody, melodramatic instrumental scores giving a cinematic feel for the vast majority of the album. It draws you in, and the curse of poor beat-selection is almost made redundant, finally. A huge amount of credit must surely go to Salaam Remi and No I.D. Between them, they have a hand in eleven of the fourteen tracks on display (more of the bonus cuts later). Even tracks that you may be tempted to skip at times – such as "A Queens Story" – end up having incredible twists and variations (e.g. injections of chopping/Chopin) that suddenly make them essential once more."

various artists :: Hieroglyphics Imperium Summer 2012 Tour Mixtape :: Hiero Imperium
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Hieroglyphics Imperium Summer 2012 Tour Mixtape]
"To support of their 2012 summer tour, the Hieroglyphics Imperium has released a brand new mixtape compiling together the cream of the crop from their various recent releases, along with one new remix never heard of released before anywhere else. The pricing structure for this album is innovative and laudable, scaled up from free (for the album itself) in $5 increments. If you just want the music, click on the album cover and get you some, you're done. $5 will get you a pack of Hieroglyphics stickers along with the download. $10 gets you the stickers and an exclusive Hiero keychain. $20 is a hellafied value though - it gets you all of the above AND a t-shirt you can rock when they hit your town on tour (or any other time you want). Trust me, they appreciate it when you wear the merch at a show - it's nothing but love from the Hieroglyphic fam for knowing you appreciate them enough to cop and wear their gear. Since there's only one track completely exclusive to this release, it's worth speaking on that one for just a moment - the Souls of Mischief "Home Game" remix by Nima Fadavi. The original version is from 2009's slept on "Montezuma's Revenge" CD. Unfortunately for me at least that makes a remix problematic, because when I reviewed the album it wound up in the coveted category of The Nines, so to me any attempt to remix the songs here is like trying to add an extra brush stroke to "The Starry Night" by Van Gogh. At best it's laughable to think you can improve on near perfection, but what's worse is that you're going to ruin a priceless masterpiece. "

Gensu Dean :: Lo-Fi Fingahz Instrumentals :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Lo-Fi Fingahz Instrumentals]
"If you're searching through the review archives for our write up of the companion Gensu Dean's "Lo-Fi Fingahz" album, you're going to be mystified as to where it is. The answer quite simply is that it isn't there - the original slipped through the cracks amongst the dozens of albums we review each month. I'd be more upset by this faux pas were it not for the fact "Lo-Fi Fingahz" only came out five months ago. I'm not saying we still shouldn't cover it, or that we don't plan to do so, but at least it's not a classic from five years ago we totally overlooked. I need to qualify the use of the word "classic" though, because it's a word thrown around by the label when sending us this instrumental album, though in fairness other reviewers have lauded the album as being quite good. Having not heard the entirety of the rhymes on the original, it would not be fair for me to call it a "classic" myself. Listening to these instrumentals though, one can surmise that even a mediocre emcee would do alright to the boom bap found within, and a halfway good one would be lauded as superb."

Grip Grand :: ESAE (Everyone Sucks At Everything) :: Routine Fly
as reviewed by Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania

[ESAE (Everyone Sucks At Everything)]
"It's startling to discover that over four years have passed since Grip Grand released "Brokelore" to such critical acclaim. My own (embarrassingly deficient) review of that album didn't do it justice: if I could hop back in the DeLorean, the focus would be more on WHY it was so good, plus an added boost to the score (up to a 9.5 or 10). It was an incredibly well-rounded album that connected on every level, and it is surely one of the great crimes within hip hop that such talented rappers/albums remain unheralded gems. His new album "ESAE (Everyone Sucks At Everything)" is a brief offering, more a collection of some road-tested songs over the last few years. Truly, it is EP length, with seven full songs and an instrumental. Yet, quality prevails. His lyricism consists of unstoppable flows, ingenious punchlines and deep humanity. There have been frequent comparisons to Kanye West over the years (early 'Ye, that is) and it's easy to see why. To be honest, that's a slight disservice to Grip, considering he is the more impressive MC in most ways. It's difficult to describe this as "underground hip hop" – it's more universal than that. He's also an accomplished producer, one with an ear for drums, melodies and terrific sequencing. ESAE, as ever, has the feel of an underdog – but one that could well and truly kick your ass lyrically at any point. "

Ill Al Skratch :: Creep Wit' Me :: Mercury Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Pete T.

[Creep Wit' Me]
"One surefire litmus test if probing '90s hip hop smarts is whether one knows that Ill Al Skratch is in fact not an individual, but rather a duo. While their name might inspire images of Chill Rob G's broke little brother, it was actually a combination of the two Brooklyn MCs' monikers, Big Ill and Al Skratch. After making modest waves with the single "Where My Homiez? (Come Around My Way)" in '94 they made perhaps their greatest contribution to the pop music canon by introducing the world to a certain Brian McKnight on the follow-up "I'll Take Her." Anchored by an orchestral street symphony and a PMD vocal sample, the young McKnight, later of "Back at One" fame, pleads his crude case ("If you don't want her, don't waste her time") between the rappers' hilariously raunchy verses. An auspicious beginning for an ambitious crooner it wasn't, but it is a classic East Coast single. Upon hearing Al Skratch's booming voice, one immediately formulates a strikingly accurate mental image of "the one with the voice that's raspy"—a dark chocolate brother who, unless you play ball for a living, is probably significantly bigger than you. On "I'll Take Her" he and his partner-in-rhyme position themselves as cockeyed opportunists, the type to "give your man a pound, then I'll ask you what's your name." It's a deeply humorous affair, however, with the less gruff but equally bombastic Big Ill trading lines with his compadre and Mr. McKnight providing a soulful if miles-over-the-top performance. "

Large Professor :: Professor @ Large :: Fat Beats
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Professor @ Large]
"William Paul Mitchell b/k/a Large Professor has picked up his output level slightly in the last few years. We went 10 years from the break-up of his rap group 'til the release of his official solo debut "1st Class" and bootleg release of "The LP." We then went another half decade+ until he decided to drop an album wryly titled "Main Source," but since then he put out an official version of "The LP" and dropped this brand new album "Professor @ Large." By my math, since I'll count the official version of "The LP" as a new album, that's three releases from Extra P in the last five years. That's not what you'd call prolific for anybody OTHER the Professor, but given how reticent Mr. Mitchell is, that's as close to it for the P as we'll ever get. Paul is famous for different things depending on who you ask or what part of his career they're familiar with. He's definitely a wizard behind the boards, famous for his contributions to classic rap albums like "Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em" and "Illmatic." For some though his contributions as a lyricist in that same era loom even larger, famed for rap songs like "Just a Friendly Game of Baseball" and "Looking at the Front Door." In my mind I'd prefer to give him credit for both, but in truth his rapping took a backseat to production for so long that a cameo rap or a 12" single in the 1990's was a rare event. Even with the turn of the calendar to the 21st century and several solo albums under his belt, that's still a hard image for me to shake. "

Plex :: Demons :: URBNET Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"The opening and titular track of "Demons" left me puzzled for about 30 seconds. "Somebody made a mistake," said me to myself and I. "Either the record label sent me the wrong album, or I somehow used the wrong download link. This can't be right - it sounds like bluegrass country rock." A quick scan of the album's tracks showed that neither the label nor I were mistaken. Well known Canadian hip-hop artists like D-Sisive ("Another Day"), Fatty Jones ("Ready") and Rellik ("Step Into the Ring") appear throughout the credits. "Demons" is definitely the right album, although that just goes to show Plex is a little bit different from the average. A 15 year veteran who owns and operates his own independent label (New Leak Entertainment), he like fellow Toronto native Drake has made successful forays into acting and also has hosted an acclaimed radio broadcast called "The Plex Show" for over 2 years. Of course those are just the credentials in his bio - the music is what matters the most. The title track quoted above (which also features a cameo by B. Brown) proves Plex is a capable storyteller. He also self-produces, a familiar trademark of rappers who have a Northern Touch to their craft. When he does turn the reigns over to others, they turn in some impressive tracks. Rich Kidd's work on "Warriors" is reminiscent of DJ Premier - bubbling, symphonic and lush. Speaking of deejays, DJ Corbett's pop sensibility on "Ready" make his beat an ideal backdrop for a song by Tyga or Weezy."

[channel ORANGE]Frank Ocean :: channel ORANGE
Odd Future/Def Jam

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon"Ever since the early 1990's and possibly before, hip-hop fans and pundits have speculated on which unidentified mystery man was the "gay rapper" keeping his secret in the closet. In hindsight that's actually pretty silly, because if there are thousands of rappers in the music business, there ought to at a minimum DOZENS of homosexual male and female artists. That's just statistics and averages. What did people actually expect to do if they figured out who the "gay rapper" was anyway? Encourage him to come out? Stone him for not conforming to stereotypical norms of rap masculinity? Both? I really don't know. In a hip-hop collective (OFWGKTA) often lambasted by critics for its homophobic lyrics (particularly those of founder Tyler, the Creator) Frank Ocean is a very square peg surrounded by nothing but the roundest of holes. After all these years of searching for the mythical "gay rapper" a rapper/singer from the Odd Future clique came out and said "I'm the guy you're looking for," even though at 24 years old he wouldn't have been in the business at the height of this fevered hunt. He certainly would have read about it in magazines like XXL and The Source though, and seen articles about it online as the internet's scope grew. For a young man trying to figure out his sexuality as he came of age, what could the effect of all the hyper-masculinity in hip-hop be on his psyche? And how would a crew who tosses the word "faggot" around like a Brit asking for his cigarettes react to his revelation?

Alterbeats :: The French Revolution :: Alterprod
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
[The French Revolution]
"I'd call them "France's best kept secret" but the Alterbeats collective has been visible for a while now. They've made their name providing beats for some of the most grimy artists on the East coast, ranging from M.O.P. to Termanology, and having made their bones working for everybody else it's time to get a little of the spotlight for themselves. "The French Revolution" is a bit of a misnomer though, since France has had a vibrant hip-hop scene for decades. At first it might have simply followed in the cutting edge footsteps of its New York counterparts, but as the music became a global commodity French artists stepped up and made hip-hop their own in all of its various arts. The only "Revolution" would be in giving these talented individuals their long overdue credit. An easy route to Alterbeats getting that acclaim would have been to seek out the best known names of American hip-hop for their major label debut - doing tracks with Lil Wayne, Nas, Jay-Z and Tyler the Creator among others. Instead Alterbeats took the more daring route of linking up with underground rappers and providing them with a healthy dose of boom bap that could turn the heads of Primo and Alchemist. Don't get it twisted - French artists like Lion of Bordeaux still get in the mix on songs like "Alter Ego," but they do so linking up with A.G. of D.I.T.C. and famed Brand Nubian emcee Sadat X. Most tracks are the underground's underground though. "

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