Monday June 25, 2018

The (W)rap Up for 2012 - August [1 of 2]
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 7:30PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[Life's Quest] 8Ball :: Life's Quest
Entertainment One Music

Author: Pete T."8Ball's a regional hero and an underground legend, a veteran of two decades and a Southern innovator responsible for putting Memphis on the hip hop map. After three albums on Suave House Records in the mid-1990s, Ball and his partner-in-rhyme MJG elected to try their hand on the solo tip, and 8Ball's 1998 solo debut "Lost," a double-disc blockbuster on Suave House, became something of a cult classic. As a solo artist, though, he's never quite been in the right place at the right time. Amid the southern rap explosion at the turn of the century, the follow-up was the too-ironically titled "Almost Famous" in 2001, a major label effort that poised the Fat Mac for his solo breakthrough, with guests from Diddy, Ludacris, and Carl Thomas. Sales were slow, and before long distributor JCOR closed up shop, dooming the album to premature out-of-print scarcity. Although he and MJG continued to record successfully as a duo, including two albums with Bad Boy and one on T.I.'s Grand Hustle imprint as well as a crossover smash with their contribution to fellow M-Town vets Three 6 Mafia's hit "Stay Fly" in 2005, his solo catalog has been hampered by a few unauthorized releases and others that straddled the line between mixtape and album a little too closely. Make no mistake, though, that "Life's Quest" is a full-blown affair, a true return to the solo realm for the River City don. Countless seasoned emcees have gone the independent route in the aftermath of their commercial heydays, and in addition to being plagued by suspect production and low budgets, it's easy for many to go on autopilot, especially as the need for a check eclipses the incentive to preserve one's legacy. Fortunately, this is far from the case on "Life's Quest," a well-conceived outing from start to finish. Production is consistently slick, including tracks from the appropriately in-demand Big K.R.I.T. and hometown hero Drumma Boy, and while there's a deal more autotune than this reviewer would prefer, it's stylish and contemporary without sounding forced. Frequent hooks from an array of R&B crooners and songstresses enhance the epic, dramatic feel of many tracks, such as opener "Indestructible," a piano-laced "Dead Presidents" soundalike with Keelyn Ellis. Ball's gruff, syrupy vocals simmer over the twinkling music, pledging resilience in the face of temptation."

various artists :: Out of Many: 50 Years of Jamaican Music :: VP Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Out of Many: 50 Years of Jamaican Music]
"Reggae has been synonymous with Jamaica almost since the island nation gained its independence in 1962. This box set shows the evolution of Jamaica's music over the past five decades, from ska to reggae to roots to dancehall. The set is arranged into three discs, all arranged chronologically. The first disc begins with the bouncy "Independent Jamaica" by Lord Creator. It shows a nation full of youthful enthusiasm and optimism for the future. The optimism continues into the ska-infused sixties, represented here by the Skatalites effusive "Malcom X." Hopeton Lewis' "Take It Easy" shows the transition from hyper ska to smoother rocksteady. Some of the most soulful singers of the rocksteady and early reggae era are represented here, including Nicky Thomas, Alton Ellis, and Dennis Brown. As the sixties grew to a close, Jamaicans came to realize that the new government brought almost as many problems as the old. There was still widespread poverty and corruption, and more and more Jamaicans turned to Rastafarianism to guide them. The music turned more spiritual as well, culminating in skanking roots reggae.Junior Byles' "Not Fade Away" and Culture's fiery "Two Sevens Clash" are both prime example of roots reggae at its dreadest. Disc two sees reggae's transition to dancehall. Wayne Smith's "Under Me Sleng Teng" is the song that changed everything. The riddim was recorded not by a group of skilled musicians, but by using a pre-set of Eddie Cochran's "Something Else" on a crappy Casio keyboard. Producer King Jammy tinkered with that beat a little to give it the reggae one-drop lilt, added some sung/spoken lyrics about, and voila, smash hit! Cue hundreds of session musicians lining up for unemployment, and a million kids with keyboards trying their hand at being the next reggae superstar. It's not unlike what happened a few years earlier in New York when Roland 808's replaced Motown's house band as the sound of Black America. There is something a little sad about hearing the masterful musicianship of the 70s be thrown aside for the tinny amateurness of the dancehall era. No more heavy bass, no more gorgeous singing. Instead there are digital beats and young men chatting about getting high, getting laid, and taking out rivals."

[Based On a T.R.U. Story]2 Chainz :: Based On a T.R.U. Story
Def Jam

Author: Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania"Albums like "Based On a T.R.U. Story" really make you wonder just how they even come about to existence. Record labels make talented artists jump through hoops to even get signed, let alone get through the development process unscathed. Getting a single released is a miracle; an album launch is simply blue moon territory. Then along comes a talentless hack like 2 Chainz. On what can only be described as a one-man crusade to provide ammunition to everyone that hates hip hop, including hip hop fans, the rapper from Georgia (formerly known as Tity Boy) reduces every single topic to its very base level. There are absolutely no redeeming aspects to his own performance, and BOATS is in no way, shape or form worth your time or money. A decent supporting cast providing their B game beats handles the production, and it makes for an average enough background listen. Bangladesh turns up, as does The-Dream, and there are features from Lil Wayne, Drake, Kanye, Nicki Minaj, Scarface, Chris Brown and a few others. It's all very typically Def Jam '12, but then along comes the star of the show to destroy the myth that he's "one to watch this year." He is, rather, one to spot, avoid like the plague, and ignore forever more. "

40Love :: Dreams Don't Sleep :: 40Love Music
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[Dreams Don't Sleep]
"Dreams Don't Sleep" has a funky and fresh feel from the very beginning. Maybe it's the album cover, which features three of the four group members wearing animal masks, or maybe it's their usage of the term "electronic soul" to describe their music, but 40Love has a noticeable edginess that grabs the listener right off the bat. Consisting of lead producer Mikos, emcees Miss Haze and G-OFF, and DJ Whooligan, the four-man group hailing from San Francisco isn't afraid the stretch the boundaries of traditional hip-hop. Of course, any group can claim to blend together hip-hop and other genres of music, but not all of them can do it effectively, and thus I went into "Dreams Don't Sleep" with a cautiously optimistic attitude. In particular, although I had high hopes for the fusion hip-hop sound that 40Love promised to deliver, I wondered whether the lyricism would keep up throughout the album. After just a couple songs, the impressive range of sounds that 40Love brings to the table is already clear. "Infinite Potential, Pt. 1" has a spacy feel, with a set of dreamy synths meshing with a head-bobbing drum loop to create a hypnotic instrumental, and Miss Haze and G-OFF spit back to back verses to kick off the album. The very next song, though, "Infinite Potential, Pt. 2," has a completely different sound, as Haze and G-OFF switch their style up to match the dubstep-influenced track. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of the recent dubstep movement, as I can't help but think that a handful of the songs sound almost like pure noise."

Big Beat Bronson :: May Contain Nuts EP :: BurnBlockBeats
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace

[May Contain Nuts EP]
"Earlier this year, Baron Von Alias and MistaBreeze released "Brace for the Impact" which both Steve 'Flash' Juon and myself agreed it was destined to be a hit at the dance clubs, but not really anywhere else. He respected the project for what it was, but in short, it was not his cup of tea. Fast forward to August and now we have Big Beat Bronson, a collective made up of Baron Von Alias, MistaBreeze, Eliza Lawson and DJ LKP. To be honest, in some ways the collaborative effort reminds me of The Electric which consists of DJ Vadim, Pugs Atomz and Sabrina Jade. The "May Contain Nuts EP" has been in the works for awhile and has finally seen the light of day. We're presented with six tracks spanning nearly 22 minutes in length that come in a variety of flavors as we begin the taste test. The opening track "Move With It" switches back and forth between having a pop feel to it to something more industrial in nature. "Action Man" is a fun track filled with braggadocio and not to mention a reference to the late, great 'Macho Man' Randy Savage that Steve Juon would undoubtedly appreciate. In fact, the video features a would-be Randy Savage impersonator that comes complete with a championship belt and looks like a life-sized version of the popular Wrestling Buddies from the 80s. Eliza Lawson finally gets more of the spotlight on "Nothing" and "Sorry." "

GZA :: Liquid Swords - The Chess Box :: Get On Down/Geffen
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Liquid Swords - The Chess Box]
"In some ways nothing has changed since I reviewed "Liquid Swords" for a Back to the Lab feature over 10 years ago. Fancy new packaging or not, this album is still essentially the same as it was in 1995. It is the raw and fiercely untempered lyricism of a man whose crew had for all intents and purposes taken over the East coast (or at least the New York area) and captured the imagination of rap fans across the United States and around the world. So now we have a brand new "Liquid Swords" for a brand new era, and if we're all being honest, there is a LOT that has changed in the last 10 years. Aside from a post 9/11 downturn, the economy had a solid run for a few years there in the 2000's, and hip-hop still seemed to be the predominant driving force behind pop culture. The irony is that the recession should have brought rap to the forefront in an even greater degree, given its birth is well acknowledged as the voice of the disenfranchised using technology in previously unenvisioned ways to make their feelings known. That didn't happen. As rappers continued to flaunt an increasingly dishonest extravagance, even the most ardent supporters of the arts had to admit the musical aspect of the culture seemed out of step with day to day reality. While a small minority had the balls to say "it ain't all good" the mainstream that for so many years tried to ignore rap forcefed us all the least redeeming parts of it. "

Kottonmouth Kings :: Mile High :: Suburban Noize Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Mile High]
"With remarkable consistency the Kottonmouth Kings release a new album almost every year like clockwork. This keeps a worldwide legion of stoned fans puffing on their latest hit, while keeping the Kings themselves chronically on tour supporting their releases. "Mile High" is the latest of these releases to spread like ditch weed, but I must confess that at times the whole thing can seem incredibly insular. You either know the Kings or you don't - you either see them on tour or you don't. This is something the Kings acknowledge themselves on "Kottonmouth Bitch" - the fact that (1.) their music doesn't crossover much and (2.) they don't care. After nearly 20 years of making rap music they are entitled to this attitude. Their albums have been successful despite only occasionally drawing mainstream acclaim, and any critics who have derided their obsession with pot have only made their more popular with a loyal stoner audience. As they say on "Kottonmouth Bitch" that "could be one of the reasons why we stay underground." The other would be that their rip-rock psychedelic hip-hop doesn't necessarily translate well to other contexts; furthermore there really isn't anybody else in rap who can do that style and get away with it. If this is your first exposure to the Kings, don't expect warm soulful R&B samples, funk synth loops, AutoTune or Alchemist. Their sound is closer to Nine Inch Nails and Skrillex than Nas and Snoop Dogg."

Random a/k/a Mega Ran :: Language Arts Volume 1 :: MegaRan Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Language Arts Volume 1]
"In the interest of full disclosure you need to be aware of the following fact: I have been actively involved in the promotion of Random's album "Language Arts Volume 1," having actually been given advance access to promotional materials from it and allowed to use them to create a video showing off what you get along with music for your purchase - a video game styled after the Mega Man classics of days gone by. Now I was intimately aware of the potential for bias on my part reviewing an album I was actually licensed to promote, so initially I ceded coverage of this release to a fellow staffer. That proved to be problematic as a major laptop meltdown left him unable to contribute write-ups until a new computer could be procured, and difficult to reassign given I had already given all of the rest of the crew their own promos to do. As such the album bounced back to me, and an understandably curious Random wondering "Is there a review coming? I'm just about ready to drop Volume 2 on the masses. Sooner would be better!" He didn't use those exact words, but nevertheless I promised him I'd put my potential bias aside with a pre-review disclaimer and attempt to get it done myself. There are multiple layers to "Language Arts Volume 1" once you start peeling, but on the surface Random is a mild-mannered teacher by day and champion of the microphone by night. He discovers that his students are becoming addicted to a video game which has the dangerous side effect of turning them into mindless zombies, capable of horrific acts of violence without knowledge of their actions, and he vows to fight this scourge by any means necessary. "

Serengeti :: C.A.R. :: anticon
as reviewed by Zach 'Goose' Gase

"Try and imagine listening to a completely unique artist, with no expectations and knowing nothing about his before hand. The first time you heard a rapper like MF Doom, you probably heard about how brilliant, albeit off kilter he was. Being an eccentric rapper is a bit of a double-edged sword. My first interaction with Serengeti came a little over a year ago when I was assigned to review his album "Family & Friends." Having never heard of him prior to covering his album, I was took for quite a surprise when I heard his deadpan delivery and unique flows. I commended him for his acute attention to detail and loved the production, but ultimately I deemed the album a less-than-average piece of work from a rapper who didn't fully grasp the technical aspects of a professional emcee. A year later I am still listening to "Family and Friends" and am constantly checking for new Serengeti projects. I would like to take this time to admit I was wrong, but in my defense Serengeti is the type of artist that you're probably going to have to listen to for more than a week to fully understand what he's all about. Geti's latest album, "C.A.R." is his third project of 2012, following "Break & Claw" (with indie rock hero, Sufjan Stevens and Son Lox) and "Kenny Dennis EP." But "C.A.R." is the true follow up to his excellent 2011 "Family & Friends," and features production from Odd Nosdam and Jel. "C.A.R." is packed with very dark subject matter, and bizarre stories that only Serengeti can come up with."

Solo For Dolo :: Self Titled :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Solo For Dolo]
"Solo For Dolo is an emcee from Asbury Park, New Jersey who has been rapping since before anyone had heard of Marshal Mathers. He released his first album "The Truth for the Youth" in 2009. "Self-Titled" is his follow-up. When you think of New Jersey, you probably think of Bruce Springsteen and guys who spend all their time tanning and working out. Dolo is here to show you that there is more to Jersey besides the Boss and Jersey Shore. Solo is an underground rapper who divides his time between cutting down other rappers and lamenting his own state of affairs. On "Quarter Water Kids" he manages to both brag about being an amazing rapper and complain about being broke. Dolo's combination of self-confidence and self-effacing humor works for him. He's got confidence to not come off as pathetic, but is also able to poke fun at himself. "Talking That Bullshit" features a guest spot by producer Domingo talking shit about Dolo while Dolo asks "what's in the water that's got you acting cocky for no reason?" Dolo is solid on the mic, and he's helped out by equally solid production. Maker lays down some funky grooves on "Asbury Rising" and "Delilah's Den." Dolo himself provides some melancholy beats on "Virgo" and "Fallen." Domingo supplies the strongest beats here, from the bluesy "Homecoming" to the soulful "Last Call" to the jazzy "Aerosol." The latter is the strongest track on the album, and Dolo matches the intensity of the beats with his rhymes. "

[Premier Politics 1.5] Sir Michael Rocks :: Premier Politics 1.5
Dat Piff

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon"RapReviews doesn't normally highlight free mixtapes in the weekly "featured review" you're reading right now, but Sir Michael Rocks' "Premier Politics 1.5" has a few things going for it. Many of you will already be familiar with Antoine 'Sir Michael Rocks' Reed as one half of the The Cool Kids, a group that sprang to fruition out of a chance meeting on MySpace with producer Evan 'Chuck Inglish' Ingersoll. Yes peeps - there was a point when MySpace was actually a relevant place for artists to connect and collaborate. It quickly became a fruitful Detroit to Chicago partnership, and by good timing or great providence their MySpace songs led to major labels and major names who wanted to sign them on the dotted line. Overnight they were opening for M.I.A. and recording songs for video games like NBA Live. That much success that fast tends to make people suspicious, and you can certainly find some harsh critiques of The Cool Kids online, but they were arguably part of a new wave of artists inspired by both golden age emcees like Rakim and more experimental ones like Pharrell. The result was a new breed of rappers like Kid CuDi and Childish Gambino. Sir Michael Rocks fits perfectly into this mold, which some people derisively refer to as "hipster hop." If you put the hate aside though, it's easy to see that Sir Michael Rocks isn't into aggressive hip-hop antagonism or male macho posturing, and there's no reason for a rapper or anybody else to pretend they're something they're not. As "Pajama Pants" proves, it's certainly not an impediment to getting laid. "

AWAR :: The Laws of Nature :: Lions Pride/Raw Koncept Media Group
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Laws of Nature]
"It wasn't hard to get excited about reviewing AWAR. Reading the back cover of the album was like a who's who of hip-hop production: The Alchemist, Jake One, Nottz, Vanderslice and M-Phazes just to name a few. The Albany, New York based rapper didn't get to the point of coalescing this much talent overnight - he's been recording and releasing material going back to 2005. It may simply be his bad fortune to hail from the 518, when most rappers that get pub out of New York come from New York City and its associated boroughs and projects. Clearly that hasn't stopped AWAR from hustling harder to get noticed, and it may be a sign of his confidence in "The Laws of Nature" that the album's front cover logo is printed with a reflective gold-colored foil. No one would pay the extra charge at the printing press for it if they couldn't sell it. And yet to hear AWAR tell it on the Alchemist laced "Tunnel Vision," money is the furthest thing from his mindset. It's not just that AWAR pulls great producers for "The Laws of Nature," he also pulls in highly recognizable names from the underground rap scene. Has-Lo joins AWAR on the Jake One banger "Stairsteps." California emcee and producer Evidence jumps on the pounding bars of "Never Break Me," but the Ev-esque beat is actually a Vanderslice work of art."

Block McCloud & DJ Waxwork :: Four Walls :: Disturbia Music Group
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Four Walls]
"If you like gritty, nasty, heavy and brutally beautiful East coast hip-hop, then you already know Block McCloud like the palm of your hand. You've heard him singing or rapping hooks on classics like "Mess You Made" by Sean Price and "Style Wars" by Jean Grae, you've heard him as part of the rap supergroup Army of the Pharaohs, he's been featured numerous times on songs with Jedi Mind Tricks and Vinnie Paz, and he even has a couple of underground albums of his own like "Spitting Image" and "I Was Drunk When I Made This." That's a hilarious title, but Block McCloud is no joke, as I found out firsthand when I interviewed him for RapReviews. "Four Walls" with DJ Waxwork is a "me and my homies" kind of album, which is both indicative of his musical generosity and his tendency over the years to let other people take the spotlight he deserves. It's hard to knock it given the quality of the collaborations he does. Take "True Lies" featuring Hasan Salaam and Vinnie Paz for example, one of the most haunting songs to come out in 2012. It's not just the violin backdrop that makes it eerie - it's the conspiracy theory lyrics from Paz that eat into your brain.Nearly every song has a similar cameo, and while not all of them upstage the talents of McCloud, it's not hard to see from this list the potential for them to do so."

Chin Injeti :: Peoples Mixtape :: Wandering Worx Entertainment
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Peoples Mixtape]
"Chin Injeti is a man of many hats - he's an A&R for Universal Music Canada, he played bass and guitar on Eminem's "Recovery," he's a founding member of Juno award winning R&B group Bass Is Base and has produced everything from hard rock to country. Apparently there's nothing Injeti can't do, so why not add a hip-hop mixtape to that resume? The line-up of Injeti's "Peoples Mixtape" is decidedly eclectic, although it's not a surprise that Wandering Worx affiliates like Jasiri X and Sonreal are featured contributors. Still the real feature here is Injeti's deft touch behind the boards, bringing a variety of different sounds to a hodgepodge of artists and musicians. He crafts the music to meet their needs, such as providing over-the-top organs and clapping drums for David Banner on "Peoples 2." Banner clearly relishes the beat because he jokes around and has fun, rapping "I love big butts like Sir Mix-A-Lot" and "I stay gettin paid like walkin in AIG with a hand grenade." Then there's Omar Khan, a very quiet and soft-spoken AutoTuned singer, who Injeti carefully works around so as to not drown out his vocals on "What Am I Gonna Do Now?" Khan doesn't strike me as being that exceptional of a talent - in fact he's mediocre at best - but Injeti manages to work with what little he's given and make the song interesting."

Kool Keith :: Total Orgasm Mixtape :: Junkadelic Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Total Orgasm Mixtape]
"Ostensibly Kool Keith is giving away the "Total Orgasm" mixtape as a thank you to his fans for supporting "Love & Danger," the latest in a long series of retail and direct sale albums from one of hip-hop's most enigmatic and eccentric emcees. Don't take my word for it though - that's what the press release from his PR firm Audible Treats says. Apparently Keith found the time to record this album while touring everywhere from New York to Australia to the Gathering of the Juggalos. When I say record though, I don't just mean vocals. Unlike "Love & Danger" where DJ Junkaz Lou helped to tame Keith's wildness, "Total Orgasm" is a return to familiar territory for Keith. Over 50% of this mixtape's tracks are produced by Keith, and while his stream-of-consciousness rap often works in spite of itself, that's not necessarily true for his production techniques. Many of Keith's most inscrutable and insufferable albums have been when he handled both the beats and rhymes. At least out of 16 tracks, 7 still have someone else's touch, which helps temper the musical maelstrom he brewed up on "Total Orgasm" a bit. Unfortunately even the non-Keith tracks are at times problematic here. I have every reason to like "Acura" - DJ Junkaz Lou on the beat, legendary D.I.T.C. member Andre the Giant with guest vocals, and yet the production is a muddy mess. "

Mr. Boss :: The Landing Part II :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[The Landing Part II]
"UK producer Mr. Boss dropped his first album, "The Landing," when he was just 18. Two years later he is following it up with "The Landing Part II." It's a 15-track collection featuring twelve British MCs rapping over Mr. Boss's beats. Boss favors moody beats with heavy low ends. While a lot of UK hip-hop producers experiment with dance music, Boss sticks with a more East Coast sound, using drums that might have come out of Primo's toolbox. He lays a combination of samples and live instruments over this, the end result sounding similar to Blockhead's melancholy beats. For the most part, the MCs match the mood. Sonny Jim starts things off rapping about having "one foot on a landmine/Looking like they found me at an alien crash site" on "Lemon Squeezy." On "Underrated," Freedom tells the story of being jumped for his chain. It's not all downtempo and morose, however. Ramson Badbonez uses a beat based around pounding pianos to spit some rowdy rhymes. The centerpiece of the album is Dirty Dike's accurately titled "Rant." It's three minutes of him spitting hate and frustration, and comes with an instrumental a cappella version for any aspiring producers who want to tinker with it."

Bill Ortiz :: Highest Wish :: Left Angle Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Highest Wish]
"True believers, when last we left you our hero Bill Ortiz was trying to survive a cold and desolate "Winter In America." Despite the perils he faced on his journey, the jazz/hip-hop fusion artist used the warmth of California rappers like Zumbi and The Grouch to survive the storm and emerge largely unscathed. His success fueled a desire to aim for a higher goal than a mere Extended Player - Ortiz wanted to bring forth a new LP unto this once harsh and unfriendly environment. This is no mere fleeting fancy for the jazz trumpeter renowned for his work with everyone from Souls of Mischief to Santana - this is in fact his "Highest Wish." And if you didn't catch the EP, fear not true believer, he's brought The Grouch back for a repeat performance. For many of you this concept will not be new, as the late great Keith Elam preached the gospel of "Jazzmatazz" for many years both inside and outside of his collaborations with DJ Premier. It's a fairly natural combination given the soulful urban roots of both artforms, which makes it all the more surprising some musicians like fellow jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis have such a scathingly negative view of hip-hop music and culture. Thankfully Ortiz has a more enlightened view, which allows for his natural musical collaborations on "Highest Wish." "

Slaughterhouse :: On the House Mixtape ::
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[On the House Mixtape]
"With "Welcome To: Our House" only a week away, it makes sense for Slaughterhouse to drop a free mixtape to get heads hyped up for their new album - or does it? Does Slaughterhouse need the extra hype? Their 2009 debut album put the world on notice that the concept of hip-hop supergroups was not dead. Each of the individual artists involved had been a success to some degree, particularly Joe Budden and Royce Da 5'9", but combining with Crooked I and Joell Ortiz elevated all four to a level they had never seen before. Their collaboration resulted in an informal rap game of "top this 16" in each song, and instead of causing consternation it created camraderie as the crew crafted memorably humorous raps over hella bangin' beats. Critical acclaim soon followed. There's little doubt a new full length album from Slaughterhouse is heavily anticipated by hip-hop heads. The best case scenario for "On the House" then would be that all of these songs are original, previously unheard, dope material somehow not good enough for the final album. DatPiff tags each song as an EXCLUSIVE in their description, and since the song titles don't seem to duplicate the Amazon MP3 tracklisting we will have to take their word for it. Just to be sure though I cross-refenced leaked songs that have been transcripted and didn't see "Hammer Dance" or "My Life" among others out of these 13 songs. So with NO repeats that begets a far more important question - why not save this material for a double disc, or use them as bonus tracks for an in-store exclusive? No one will turn down free Slaughterhouse songs, but for a group as admired and respected as they are, it's not like selling these songs would be that hard. "

[H.N.I.C. 3] Prodigy :: H.N.I.C. 3
Infamous Records/Red Music

Author: Pete T.

"The original "H.N.I.C." was the product of a nurturing environment. Released at the height of New York's rap dominance, a time when Gotham rappers dominated airwaves well beyond Hot 97's range and album sales enjoyed a pre-iTunes crest, it was quite indicative of the scene's marketability that a solo album from Mobb Deep, by no means a household name, could reach gold sales in a month. A year after 1999's "Murda Muzik" scaled the charts, Bandana P enlisted the support of an almost entirely Queensbridge-bred cast of MCs, solicited beats from the Alchemist, Rockwilder, Just Blaze, Ric Rude, Bink, and old pal Havoc, and enjoyed the fruits of the boroughs' widespread well-being with a commercial and critical success. On the classic Mobb Deep records, P endeared himself to untold millions with bleak street narratives that neither glorified nor condemned his wicked ways, balancing a keen, observant eye with inward-looking reflection to speculate as to what it might all mean. Young Prodigy stopped short of both celebration and despairing, and I can't help but feel that his older self struggles with the same conundrum, now the veteran of a rap game in which his artistic renderings of the lifestyle provided him a comfortable living but also exposed him as his personal life publicly deteriorated. Things looked bad when a vengeful Jay-Z projected a childhood ballet photo for a sold out Giants Stadium at 2001's Summer Jam, but that proved the tip of the iceberg as a struggling Mobb Deep signed for an ill-fated stint at G-Unit, the end of which roughly corresponded with a lengthy prison bid for the sickle-cell anemic. "

Brenton Brown :: The Brenton Brown Affair :: B. Brown Music/New World Music Group
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Brenton Brown Affair]
"There are several different versions of "The Brenton Brown Affair" floating around the internet right now, but for the purposes of this review we'll concentrate on the retail released version which is eight tracks long. If you download a bootleg or a mixtape version of B. Brown's release, your mileage may vary. One thing all copies seem to have in common though is a guest appearance by Emilio Rojas on "To the Top." The R.E.G.I.M.E. is responsible for all eight of Brenton Brown's tracks on this "Affair" and that's the reason there's a consistency to the music throughout. "Put it Down" has the sound of a knockoff DJ Khaled radio hit, with Young Joe playing the role of a Chris Brown or T-Pains singing the hook. "Owww" is your standard braggadocious "life ain't fair but it is for me" type track with a minimal beat and hook that can easily be remembered and imitated. "Double Dare" asks a daring serious of questions: "What if I'm the next Jigga? ... And what if I'm the next Biggie, will you stop me early?/Cause if that's your intention I will stop you niggaz firmly." Among the best of these is the bouncing "Quit Your Bullshitting" featuring Nick London and Benjamin Landsford. In terms of his technical execution there's nothing wrong with B. Brown - his diction is clear, his delivery is on time, and it comes across like he's a natural spitter who has been doing this for years. The backing music is well mixed with his rhymes, and although it often comes across as mimicking what has worked for other popular artists, that doesn't make any of it bad per se. "

Chubb Rock :: The One :: Select Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The One]

"As recently as 2009, the venerable hip-hop artist could be heard "Bridging the Gap" between the Golden Era of rap and the Now Generation, but before then you could have been forgiven for asking "Whatever happened to Chubb Rock?" In fact you could even been forgiven for asking "Who IS Chubb Rock?" In a culture that celebrates its pioneers and prominent recording artists, the quiet and humble Chubb Rock is often overlooked, simply because he's not out there asking for it. He certainly deserves it though. Born in Kingston, Jamaica but Brooklyn by trade, the large in charge rapper who described himself as "6 foot 3, 260 and change" was collaborating with hip-hop producer and first cousin Hitman Howie Tee throughout the late 1980's on hits like "Ya Bad Chubbs" that were favorites anywhere hip-hop could be heard on radio or basic cable. It was 1991's "The One" though that really broke him out in a big way. "The Chubbster" showcased his nimble tongue, passionate flow, and ability to promote a positive mindset without coming off as cornball. Though it's less and less common for one producer to create an entire album for a rap star these days, there's no doubt that Chubb Rock only needed one FOR "The One." Much like his heavyset cousin, Howie Tee's contributions to hip-hop are often overlooked or disregarded, but his catalogue of work for Select Records defined not only that label but a whole generation of hip-hop. "Treat Em Right" bridged the gap between boom bap and new jack beautifully."

One Sixth :: Electronic Mail :: Pang Productions/Obese Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Electronic Mail]
"No one can accuse Australian rapper One Sixth of lacking ambition. He decided to make his debut a concept album about digital communication. All of the lyrics and song titles tie into the theme, especially around how much miscommunication there is. He's not taking the easy road out lyrically, either. He only lightly touches on the standard rap subjects of sex, partying, and being the best rapper around. He spends most of the album delving into the many tragic stories in the world ("SMS") and getting romantic. Yes, that's right, a rapper who is not Drake getting romantic. Even more surprising, he makes it work. "Crossed Wires" has a mellow beat that sounds like a reworking of Lil Kim's "Crush On You," only without the vulgarity. Where most rappers come off as arrogant when dealing with the ladies, One Sixth admits to being dumbstruck by a woman. Candice Monique makes an appearance as the woman in question, and her verses contain a sweetness you don't often hear in a rap song. Even more unusual for a rap song, it's about finding love, not lust. "Crossed Wires" is followed by "The Night Market," in which One Sixth cautions about the steep price you pay in order to be with some of the women you meet at bars. "Think of You" is another love song, with One Sixth rapping "I'm sure there is a supreme being sitting in his seat beaming with pride the night he made you." It's not all wine and candlelights, though. He teams up with Mantra and Mandz to get raunchy on "Sick." "SMS (Six Million Stories)" is about a woman in an abusive relationship with her cancer-ridden baby daddy, and approaches "Precious" levels of misery. "

Plural Clarity :: Clearly, There's a Problem Here... :: Plural Clarity
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Clearly, There's a Problem Here...]
"In the 1980s, Daniel Johnston, a musician from Austin, Texas, made a series of homemade recordings that became cult favorites among indie rockers. Nirvana's Kurt Cobain was photographed in a Daniel Johnston shirt, and everyone from TV on the Radio to the Flaming Lips have covered Johnston's music. Johnston's recordings are amateurish, done direct to tape and made with a cheap guitar and cheap keyboard. What his fans responded to wasn't the production quality, but rather the honesty and pure emotion that Johnston managed get across despite his rudimentary production values. I kept thinking of Daniel Johnston as I listened to Plural Clarity's sophomore release, "'Clearly, There's A Problem Here...'" From the hand-drawn album artwork to the dodgy production values, this looks and feels like outsider art. And in a way it is; Plural Clarity has been operating outside the mainstream record industry for his entire fifteen year career. He released two albums on the now-defunct Life For The Better records. He lived in Lancaster, California before relocating to Lithonia, Georgia, both suburbs far outside a major music city. The music he makes is outside of mainstream hip-hop too, focusing on sincerity and earnestness over swagger. "

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