Wednesday May 23, 2018

The (W)rap Up for 2012 - October [1 of 2]
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 8:30PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[Gravity] Lecrae :: Gravity
Reach Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"The name of Lecrae's sixth commercial album implies right from the start that it will be heavy. If you had said the same thing about any of his prior albums it would certainly be true. Lecrae has at times taken his Christian message beyond "preachy" and straight into "proselytizing." One verse from his album "After the Music Stops" took it into downright dangerous territory, as the faith-minded rapper vowed he'd walk through the heart of the Middle East to convert non-believers: "If the violence doesn't cease then at least the deceased/might know Jesus as their savior as their body hit the streets." Even if you don't pray to Allah, that's borderline offensive, and in many Islamic countries would get you jailed (or worse) for crimes against the state. I'll take your belief seriously, whatever it might be, if you aren't (1.) forcing it on me or anyone else and (2.) not proclaiming all other beliefs are inferior. In one fell swoop he seemed to do both.I had largely been ignoring Lecrae in the interim between then and now - aware of his existance but not really interested in his seeming intolerance toward other faiths. Over the last month though the good word spread about "Gravity," and many who thought Lecrae was narrowcasting to the Bible Belt were surprised to see his album on the top of secular Billboard charts. To be truly fair and open-minded, I had to give Lecrae a second chance and find out if he had earned this newfound fame. A little background research revealed he had done a free album called "Church Clothes" with popular mixtape king Don Cannon, and that lead me to believe that Lecrae was really trying to revamp his image. The thing that haunts most Christian rappers isn't the Holy Ghost - it's the idea that all they do is spit chapter and verse like a pastor on Sunday except in rhyme form. To go mainstream Lecrae would have to go hard on the beats and the bars and show the world he can hang with any emcee."

Devine Carama :: It Was Rewritten ::
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[It Was Rewritten] "I've been asked by many people over the years to reconsider my views on Nas' "It Was Written." I'm not sure it was wrong to have high expectations of the album considering it was preceded by an all-time hip-hop masterpiece, but in hindsight I was too quick to dismiss his latest album. My issue with the CD at the time was due to Nas exploring a more commercial sound with the Trackmasters, and as such I may not have given the writtens their fair due. The album has aged far better than many contemporary releases though, and without totally rewriting my review (at least here) I'll say there are no shortage of 21st century albums that can't hold a candle to it. One person has already beaten me to rewriting "It Was Written" though - an unsigned underground rapper from Lexington, Kentucky named Devine Carama. Before going any further cease your preconceived notions about what a rapper from Kentucky would or should sound like - you're wrong. It wasn't just Carama's audacity in paying homage to Nas by redoing his whole CD that caught my attention - it was the fact his vocal tone and flow are closer to AZ than to Ace Hood. In fact if you listened to the clip of "White Girl Lost" below before reading this paragraph and I had told you Carama was from Queensbridge, you'd have accepted the premise without a second thought about it."

Example :: Playing in the Shadows :: Ministry of Sound
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Playing in the Shadows]"Everybody knows that the United Kingdom has a one of a kind music scene that blessed Western culture with plenty of icons from The Beatles to David Bowie. It has also produced new styles in virtually every form of popular music. One particular aspect of contemporary British music however is often overlooked. You can dance to it. Or let's put it this way - in the UK there's a higher chance that you can dance to new music than in comparable countries. That goes also and in particular for indie music. British bands are just more likely to surmise, as the Arctic Monkeys song goes, "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor." Across the decades there have been a number of bands and individuals that, involuntarily or not, sporadically or regularly, made 'dance music' (in the broadest sense possible), sometimes early in their career, sometimes later. Depeche Mode, New Order, Colourbox, The Cure, Sisters of Mercy, Big Audio Dynamite, Happy Mondays, Jesus Jones, Saint Etienne, Everything But The Girl, Stereolab, Bloc Party, Hot Chip, etc. Add influential electronic/dance artists with alternative/rock sensibilities (Aphex Twin, J. Saul Kane, Norman Cook, The Prodigy, Utah Saints, Four Tet), several generations of successful electro pop outfits, popular fusion genres like acid jazz, big beat and trip-hop, cutting-edge vanguards like drum-n-bass and grime, and you have a climate where 'dance' is much less an expletive than in the US."

Klashnekoff :: FTLT (F*** The Long Talk) :: S.O.N. Entertainment
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[FTLT (F*** The Long Talk)]"Early on "FTLT" Darren Kandler b/k/a Klashnekoff makes his opinion of the current scene in London abundantly clear through the satirical skit above mocking the things music buyers say these days. Not only is the person asking "What happened to him man?" ignorant about albums like "Back to the Sagas," he's clearly aping whatever happens to be trendy as opposed to making a truly informed purchase. When Klashnekoff was hot (the listener's past tense not mine) he bought Klashnekoff; now that dubstep is the hot sound he buys dubstep. Klashnekoff is not a rapper about trends though. The fact he'd drop the bar "Back for a +Slice+ like +Kimbo+" on the song "Do It Like" should tell you that, but if not let's make it perfectly that Kah-lash-knee-cough gives a fuck NOT if you don't like his sound or style. He's going to do his own thing, damn the consequences. The album has no shortage of moments telling you to eff the eff off. The funny thing about that though is it's exactly what I like about Klashnekoff. His ruggedly independent spirit is not only a middle finger to what's trendy in Europe, it's a middle finger to the world as a whole. He's not going to make trap music, or gangster boogie, or bounce, or underground NYC rap, or any other hip-hop style you can come up with for him to do. If sampling Japanese techno funk was in vogue, he'd do the exact opposite. Klashnekoff won't be told what kind of rap artist to be, which means I'm perfectly fine with being told to go take a flying leap, because the result is he'll do a "Let Me Clear My Throat" freestyle in 2012 even though that song hasn't been cool (pun intended) for 16 years and the "900 Number" loop is in fact older than that. What you're getting on "FTLT," an album that purposefully puts a curse word in its title (then censors it), is the raw unvarnished Darren Kandler. He's the guy in the room who is hip because he's NOT trendy. "

Phi-Life Cypher :: Millenium Metaphors :: Jazz Fudge Recordings
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Millenium Metaphors]"In 2008 RapReviews writer Jay Soul was so thrilled by the Olympic Summer Games he used them to describe the historic event in hip-hop that was Dr. Dre's "The Chronic." I had my reservations about the analogy, last but not least because I had become sceptical of athletic exploits as too many champions had turned out to be cheaters, and I feared the same from the two poster boys Jay mentioned by name in his piece, Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. Watching the 2012 Olympics in London reminded me of the misgivings I had four years prior. I witnessed Bolt repeat his Beijing triumph, winning gold in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay, while Phelps made a remarkable return after a series of setbacks. Still their wins didn't excite me, not because I wouldn't like these guys or thought they were expected to win anyway or had already had their turn or suspect them to be doping offenders, but because I find the measure by which they're judged simply too plain. I miss the higher ambition in a competition that only determines who swims, rows, cycles, or runs the fastest, who lifts the most weight, throws martial objects the farthest or jumps the longest or highest. I couldn't even muster interest for the marathon, despite having finished the 42km a couple of times myself. Instead I was intrigued by competitions I had so far ignored because they somehow seemed... well, unmanly. The feats displayed by artistic and rhythmic gymnasts were simply out of this world to my untrained eye. While endurance, speed and strength are essential to all athletic performances, there are sports that also require an extra degree of technique, strategy, concentration, timing, coordination, will power, collaboration, courage, aesthetic understanding, etc. In those sports we realize the potential of our species."

Snowgoons :: Snowgoons Dynasty :: Goon MuSick/Babygrande Records
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Snowgoons Dynasty]"Snowgoons albums increasingly remind me, in terms of their line-up, of the Gathering of the Juggalos. You've got the hosts who have been there from day one, the numerous affiliates they've accumulated over the years, the veterans they reserved a special place in their hearts and on their stage/in their studio for, and finally the nobodies and the newcomers. Their latest features two generations of Eminem affiliates, rappers from three different platinum acts, underground artists from New York, Boston, Detroit, New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, L.A. and the Bay, indie mainstays such as Blaq Poet and Main Flow, etc. The Snowgoons literally got things covered. It's safe to say that they made more connects than any other producer/s in the last ten years. They count "Snowgoons Dynasty" as their fifth album since their '07 debut, but a quick glance at their discography shows that they've had an even busier schedule. Only this year for instance they also put out a project exclusively with German rappers entitled "Terroristen Volk." Jay-Z once envisioned a rap "Dynasty," and while the Roc name is as illustrious as ever, the family ties weren't always the strongest. The Snowgoons handle things differently, to a point where every rapper who is featured on one of their tracks momentarily becomes a Snowgoon himself and thus part of the Snowgoons dynasty. "

Substantial :: Home Is Where the Art Is :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed by Zach 'Goose' Gase

[Home Is Where the Art Is] "Over the past few years has there been any label that has been dropping quality albums as frequently as Mello Music Group? In 2012 the "other" MMG has already released critical darlings such as Oddisee's "People Hear What They See" and O.C. and Apollo Brown's "Trophies." Well you can now add long-time QN5 affiliate, Substantial to the crew's ever-growing impressive list of releases, with his third LP, "Home Is Where the Art Is." MMG's newest signee, who hails from Baltimore, fits right in with the crew with his technical proficiency over a fresh take of boom bap production. "Home Is Where the Art Is," which is inspired by Substantial's hometown of Baltimore, is the rapper's first full-length LP since 2008's "Sacrifice," which earned the rapper acclaim and airtime on MTV U. Those familiar with Substantial, know that rap fans will be hard pressed to find a rapper who's as gifted technically, with flawless cadences and a seemingly infinite breath control. Think, Pharaohe Monch meets Black Thought, but with a baritone vocal delivery. The best example of his rhyming ability would be the aptly titled, "Mr. Consistent," where Substantial executes some of the illest rhyme patterns I've heard in 2012. Another example of Substantial's best skills as a rapper is his unique take on braggadocio. "Mr. Consistent," "Shit on My Lawn," and lead single "Check My Resume" echo the same sentiments as his 2008 track, "That Damn Good," which effortlessly combines battle raps and humor. "Check My Resume," which is laced by MMG honcho, Oddisee, shows Stan's skills to formulate battle raps focused on a specific topic; in this case he uses several occupational allusions to display how dope of an emcee he is. "

Us3 :: Broadway & 52nd :: Blue Note Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Pete T.

[Broadway & 52nd]"Hip-Hop has always been reverent of jazz, yet oftentimes rap producers use jazz sampling as mere means to a new end. The masters from Pete Rock to Buckwild to Madlib thrive on breathing new life into dusty samples, making them fresh if not unrecognizable from their source material. There has always been a group of rappers and producers from the other side of the pond, though, that takes their jazz a little more seriously. Guru exposed MC Solaar, among the first of the jazz-obsessed European artists to make waves in the U.S., on his groundbreaking "Jazzmatazz" album in 1993, and more recently entities such as Jazz Liberatorz have captured ears by keeping their jazz pure and mostly unadulterated despite the presence of hip hop percussion and rap vocals. Us3 was never really a group so much as a rotating stable of contributors to British producer Geoff Wilkinson's vision, and after the runaway success of their 1993 debut LP "Hand on the Torch," spurred by the inescapable Herbie Hancock-sampling "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)," they toured extensively but never fully reassembled in the studio. On the full-length 1997 follow-up "Broadway & 52nd," the formula remains largely the same—like on "Jazzmatazz," sampling and live instrumentation are synthesized with a hip hop blueprint that manages to balance both genres pretty seamlessly. As many groups have displayed over the years, jazz and rap are natural complements, and Wilkinson goes easy on the bass and sub-rattling percussion of his peers in order to emphasize the raw elements of jazz. Wilkinson also had the great fortune of a green light to excavate the entire Blue Note catalog, essentially the wet dream of any hip hop producer. Others who raided Blue Note records had to do it carefully, sneakily, or chancily, and the iconic label's blessing is half the pleasure of the early Us3 albums. Still, Wilkinson's use of the samples is consistently brilliant, and the live soloing and vocals blended amongst the sometimes familiar yet still fresh samples makes for a reliable pleasure on each track."

Wretch 32 :: Wretchercise :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Wretchercise] "Wretch 32 is kind of a big deal in the UK. He came up in the London grime scene before moving in a more mainstream direction with his 2011 sophomore album, "Black and White." The change in sound worked for him, earning him a million album sales, several hit singles, and numerous awards including BET's Best International Act of 2012. "Wretchercise" is a collection of new tracks and freestyles to hold fans over until he can record a proper follow-up. Like Tinie Tempah, he makes club-friendly hip-hop that sounds as influenced by American R&B and hip-hop as British grime. The rough edges are smoothed out, the production is crisp and polished, and Wretch's flow is all smooth swagger. He's the kind of rapper who is so casual and effortless that it seems like he's not even trying. The first few times I listened to this mixtape I was ready to write him off as another lightweight artist putting style over substance. It was only after given the mixtape the proper attention that I realized that there is genuine skill beneath Wretch's flossing. Wretch comes across on this mixtape as an artist who has achieved success and found found out that it isn't all that it is cracked up to be. Money and the things it buys aren't as satisfying as he imagined them to be when he was young and hungry. This is a common realization by people who have fought their whole lives to gain material success; it ends up being a lot less fulfilling than it seemed like it would be from afar. This being a mixtape there is a tossed-off feel to some of the tracks, and you get the sense that Wretch isn't bringing his A-game to every song. Still, even the tossed-off tracks can be rewarding. Take the opener "Hold Me Back." Sure, it's a two-minute freestyle over an Evian Christ song, but the combination of the spooky beat and Wretch's cocky-yet-melancholy rhymes make for an incredible song. On "My Dreams" he raps over James Blake's "Wilheim Scream," using the haunting instrumental as a backdrop for his romantic raps.

[click the cover to see the art on their website] Death Grips :: No Love Deep Web
Third Worlds

Author: Patrick Taylor

"What the hell was Epic Records thinking when they signed Sacramento punk/noise/rap act Death Grips? They were probably thinking, "with a little finessing, we could make this appeal to the Warped Tour/Hot Topic crowd who would have been buying Limp Bizkit records ten years ago, AND appeal to hipsters who are exploring death metal and looking for rap music that is still threatening." They were probably thinking that given drummer/producer Zach Hill's long career in the music business, he would be a rational employee who understood the uncomfortable but necessary compromises that have to be made between artistic needs and business needs. Whatever Epic was thinking, whatever relationship they thought they had with Death Grips fell apart in a spectacular way last week. When Death Grips wanted to release a follow-up to their well-reviewed major debut "The Money Store" seven months after its release, Epic decided that maybe releasing two albums in one year wasn't the best strategy, and the new materials should be pushed back to 2014. Rather than merely take to Twitter to do some internet bitching, Death Grips released their album for free on their website. To pour salt in their label's wounds, they made the album cover a photo of an erect penis with the album title written on it with a Sharpie. "U.S law states you must be 18 years of age to view graphic sexual material," says a caption under the photo on their website. " We consider this art."That is the key to understanding Death Grips: they consider what they are doing art. It what makes their music more than just hardcore bro-rap, shouted rhymes over noisy beats. They are going for something more than simply making a soundtrack for bar fights and drug abuse. Listening to "No Love Deep Web," I can't help but wonder if maybe the record label had a point. Death Grips' music is always an all-out assault, with everything cranked up to eleven. Ride has two modes: yelling about sex, drugs, and mayhem, or rapping menacingly about sex, drugs, and mayhem. He's doing more of the latter on this album, but he sounds even more unhinged than on previous releases."
Audible Doctor :: I Think That... ::
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[I Think That...] You already know. At least I think you do. Don't you? Audible Doctor is type ill on the instrumental. The long-time affiliate of the Fat Beats formed fam called Brown Bag AllStars has spent the last two years simultaneously increasing his wallet AND his reputation as the go-to guy when you need a banger for your album. There may be more famous producers who demand a bigger check for their throaway loops, but when you call the Doctor to perform surgery, you're going to get twice as nice for half the price. Quiet as kept though Audible Doctor has been getting his Dr. Dre on though, and by that I mean he's stepping from behind the boards to take the mic and showcase his rhymes. "I Think That..." is him playing a larger role on his own beats, moreso than at any point previous, over a stellar but short 33 minute selection of beats. Though he does share the spotlight at times with dope artists like Chaundon on "Success (Part 1)" and Von Pea on "F.U.B.U." it's nice to hear him spitting for dolo on his on tracks on "Andy Kaufman." For those not old enough to get the references, look up the sitcom "Taxi" then look up the movie "Man on the Moon" and go from there. His point doesn't really need the cultural allusions though, because the beat is dope and flow is on point, putting across the fact that hip-hop has gone whack and needs to be brought back. That's a recurring theme throughout "I Think That..." found on songs like "Genuine" featuring Blacastan and hip-hop legend Wise Intelligent. There's a strong emphasis on bringing back a bygone era here, hip-hop songs which have a point and not just a good beat and a catchy hook. "

Background Noise Crew :: Everybody Does This Volume Two :: B.N.C.
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Everybody Does This Volume Two]"The premise of DJ Complejo's previous Background Noise review was that the Midwest is full of an underrated assortment of hip-hop talent. He even postulates that B.N.C. could be the Twin Cities equivalent of the Living Legends collective out in California - individually talented but highly praised for the group albums they release showing the depth of their musical and lyrical skills. One other comparison Pedro makes which the Background Noise Crew makes themselves - if you're a fan of Atmosphere you'll like their shit too. Listening to "Everybody Does This Volume Two," I can't dispute any of the theories put forth so far. For those who are meeting them for the first time though, the group's core six is Egypto Knuckles, Phingaz, T.Q.D., Analyrical, Status Reign and ToneKrusher Smith. They also have some groups WITHIN the group though,such as Green Sketch (T.Q.D. & Phingaz), ZOMBIExZOMBIE ( JL Magee & Legend Has It), Truebadours (Phingaz & Analyrical) and so on. This leads to a whole new theory Complejo didn't have a chance to postulate - Background Noise is the Midwestern version of Odd Future. They can endlessly spin out side projects with a rotating line-up of the group's core members as OF does, but the analogy ends there as B.N.C. doesn't have a TV show (yet) or an obsession with Jerry Sandusky (thanfkully). The hard copy version of "Everybody Does This Volume Two" lists which derivative of the collective performs each song on the back, which results in this being both a group album and a compilation. "

Devlin :: Watchtower EP :: Island Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Watchtower EP]"Devlin is a relatively young man not just in the British rap scene but in life in general. "It's funny how time flies, I'm 22 now in 2012/with the Olympics here on our doorstep, it's time to welcome the world." Apparently that line on "London City, Pt. 2" was recorded before he turned 23 on May 7th, but either way he's the new blood in a place that has an old hip-hop culture, far older than most Yanks are aware of. For those of you on the other side of the Pond, I'm telling you what you already know, but as this is part of our UK month I feel it's important to address the know-nots who may not understand that Devlin grew up immersed in this culture. It's only natural that he grew up wanting to be a hip-hop superstar too. As we've established that Devlin is the newest addition to a scroll that has been getting longer for some time now, you may better understand where I'm going from that I was at the very least SURPRISED that he and British singing sensation Ed Sheeran, a boy who is two years younger than him, would choose to cover "All Along the Watchtower" by Bob Dylan. This song is not only older than I am, it's older than their combined ages TOGETHER. It came out on Dylan's album "John Wesley Harding" way way back in 1967. If I had to imagine a scenario for what and why they would have been inspired by this song, the only one I can come up with off the top of my head is the Watchmen film that came out in 2009, in which a Hendrix cover plays a featured role. Cultural gaps aside, I can't fault their take on the song, which draws inspiration from both Dylan's original version and the Hendrix cover. Besides Sheeran doing a good job of revisiting the original sung lines, Devlin's rap about trying to "make sense of all the madness/in a world full of money, full of tears, full of war" certainly reflects the turbulent political environment and "flower power" of the era the original hails from."

DJ Fricktion :: The #Burban Mixtape :: Bandcamp
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[#Burban Mixtape] "Almost exactly ten years ago I faced the challenge of covering a release called " Presents No Looking Back" for RapReviews. With a little help from our editor-in-chief I voiced my uneasiness about ethnical categories within hip-hop. I'm far from color-blind myself and wrestle with these issues probably more than the average rap listener, but at the end of the day I'm convinced that hip-hop has to be a level playing field where, I know you heard this before, it ain't where you're from, it's where you're at. From the perspective of the people who were involved in (while the website is defunct, the banner is still present on various social media platforms) and in the compilation, Asian American hip-hop artists might still be in need of a support system. They would probably see it as a validation if they learned of "The #Burban Mixtape," a showcase of British Asian rappers and singers. Ironically when it comes to demographics the US and UK have different understandings of the adjective Asian. Correlating with where the majority of Asian immigrants come from, Asian Americans are usually of Korean, Japanese, Filipino and Chinese descent, while British Asians are mainly from India and Pakistan. What this suggests is that "The #Burban Mixtape" will be a largely internal affair. 'Burban' is a relatively new tag, a composite of 'brown' and 'urban,' designating hip-hop and R&B made by British Asian artists. It aims to replace the term 'urban desi' with the object of creating a musical identity outside of the South Asian/subcontinental ('desi') market. Going from one ethnic label to another seems like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire but some kind of typification is inevitable when forging a movement."

Pacewon & Mr. Green :: The Only Number That Matters Is Won :: Raw Poetix Records
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[The Only Number That Matters Is Won] "When they first got together for "The Only Color That Matters Is Green," Pacewon & Mr. Green landed on a deserted spot on the map that isn't crowded just yet but whose population increases every year. There's a renaissance of dusty loops, dirty drums and passionate raps in process. The connections are loose, but acts like Action Bronson, Roc Marciano, Torae, Diamond District, Random Axe, Bekay, Celph Titled, etc. all feel an obligation towards ancient East Coast rap tradition. The duo's astonishing '08 effort was uneven at times but had many moments of musical grace and lyrical maturity that make it stand out to this day. Pacewon, speaking his clout since 1996 when he was part of the Fugees' "The Score" cast, managed what few of his peers have - to incorporate the wisdom that comes with age into rap music that makes noise like in the days of old. It was, if this reviewer had any say in it, one of very few modern day East Coast releases that could hope to become a hip-hop classic. Four years later they return with "The Only Number That Matters Is Won," a title that suggests nothing less than a complimentary piece to "The Only Color That Matters Is Green." Compared to his days with the Outsidaz, Pacewon has simplified his lyrical approach significantly, to a point where simple borders on simplistic. There's something endearing about how he imagines himself into different movie roles on "Big Screen," but he fails to add another, more adult layer to it. He remains the kid daydreaming about being up there on the big screen. Likewise he can't back up "Something to Say" (notably a duet with none other than Masta Ace), one of whose statements reads: "Like Ellen DeGeneres you fags are funny." And that's coming from a rapper praising himself as a breath of "Fresh Air" only a few tracks later. "

Raxstar :: Late on Time :: {self-distributed}
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Late on Time] "With a moniker straight out of the rap name generator, Raxstar has some convincing rapping to do. But what's first on your agenda these days when you want to research a fresh face? You hit up YouTube. The UK MC has a number of impressive videos to his name. "Name on the Poster," "The Other Man" and "Jaaneman" are all songs that in my opinion belong on an official album, sonically appealing, lyrically engaging, just well produced and visualized rap music with a chance to chart. None of them appear on "Late on Time," though, which is, you guessed it, one of those mixtapes that signalize the artist is waiting on standby. On the opening title track he doesn't lament his situation but rather looks forward, assuring himself that he "still got love for the music." With lyrics like "You can't stop a star from shinin' / or the sun from risin' / Everybody's gonna get a chance to blow up, you just gotta have the right song and timin'," "Late on Time" delivers the simplistic pep talk today's up-and-coming rappers like to give themselves. And of course once is not enough, so we get the same message in "Journey" and the more forceful version of it in "Hold Your Mouth." Perhaps aware of some juvenile tendencies in his attitude, Raxstar interprets Busta Rhymes' "New York Shit" as "Grown Man Shit," not exactly a new statement either. Further borrowed beats include Kanye West's "Runaway" and Rick Ross' "Aston Martin Music," two occasions where Raxstar comes across as being really inspired by the music, not merely on the pursuit of popular beats. Joined by RKZ, he represents "Asians in Luton" with flexible flows and ends the official part of "Late on Time" with a markedly higher level of introspection and inspiration over Common's "BE" closer "It's Your World." Notable are Raxstar's rap versions of Mike Posner's "Cooler Than Me" and Martin Solveig's "Hello," making them both his own with detailed and witty writing."

Roots Manuva :: Brand New Second Hand :: Big Dada Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Brand New Second Hand]"There are almost a million British Jamaicans living in the UK, many of whom either came over or are the children of people who came over in the 1950s when the UK encouraged Jamaican immigration to shore up their post-war labor shortage. Those immigrants brought their music with them, filling South London with bass booming out of sound systems. Roots Manuva was born Rodney Hylton Smith in South London, the son of a Jamaican Pentecostal preacher. He grew up surrounded by reggae music, and its influence has stayed with him. Roots Manuva's flow combines elements of both hip-hop and reggae. His British accent has a faint Jamaican lilt, and his rapping contains some of melodic barking of a dancehall DJ. He also inherited some of his father's oratory skills, which come across in the self-confident righteousness of his rhymes. He spends some time on hedonism, but also gets into deeper subject matter. Reviews at the time of the album's release praised "Brand New Second Hand" for its conscious lyrics. While it is true that the lyrics are conscious, they don't come off like the same oasis of thoughtfulness in a desert of materialism and artificiality that they must have thirteen years ago. Not that there aren't just as many hip-hop songs about partying and bullshit in 2012 as there were in 1999, but there is also more counterprogramming available for those who like substance with their beats. I listened to this album several times before began to hone in on what Roots Manuva was saying and not just how he was saying it. The man has a nice flow, and he could make the phone book sound interesting. His thick accent and liberal use of British and Jamaican slang didn't help in my Yankee comprehension of the lyrics, either. Roots Manuva also doesn't hit the listener over the head with the message, either. He weaves it into his rhymes in a way that is organic and unobtrusive."

[Napalm] Xzibit :: Napalm
Open Bar Entertainment

Author: Matt Jost
Click here to find out more!

"Xzibit is a rap icon. Not because he's a gold and platinum recording artist or because he gave the 'rapper' archetype an unusually personable face on one of MTV's most famous shows. No, the iconic figure that is Xzibit emerges whenever he opens his mouth and raps. His voice and flow are a symbol of rap's vigor and vitality. There are a million and one people who rap. But Xzibit IS rap. You know it when you hear it.Having an advantage like that invariably leads to hubris. At times X to the Z's flow has been mightier than his pen, but he's never been all bark and no bite. The relevance implied by his voice was ever so often matched by his lyrics. In terms of what he represents, he has shown consistence across underground favorites "At the Speed of Life" and "40 Dayz & 40 Nightz," commercial victories "Restless" and "Man vs Machine," to later works. While many of his peers, especially on the West Coast, have opted for a self-explanatory, well-selling rap persona, he's simply Xzibit, the guy who corners and confronts you, the listener, to teach you a lesson - verbally. As a rapper X is always in action, with or without the lights and the cameras. He's the quintessential rap agitator who has come to shake things up, every song a Cali quake. The danger in all this is that the artist eventually becomes his own stereotype, following a seemingly failsafe formula. A déjà vu is inevitable when considering the album titles and respective opening tracks of "Napalm" and "Weapons of Mass Destruction" ("State of the Union"/"State of Hip Hop vs. Xzibit"). Is Xzibit in 2012 simply another old dog unwilling to learn new tricks?"

3:33 :: In the Middle of Infinity :: Parallel Thought LTD/Alpha Pup
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[In the Middle of Infinity]"What is 3:33 exactly? That's far from an easy question to answer, though Patrick Taylor gave it a good go last year. The answer is at first glance deceptively simple - it's a group promoted by Parallel Thought, when he's not making albums with Del the Funky Homosapien and Tame One. That conclusion is quickly unraveled once one delves into a 3:33 album. One line from the press release comes close to scratching the surface of the experience: "3:33's time seemingly repeats itself in an infinite unfolding of madness and confusion." Key emphasis on the words "infinite" and "madness" here. It soon dawns on the listener that 3:33 is a group slash entity that are a little bit "weird" and tend to operate only in the theatre of the instrumental. These explanations are only going to get more convoluted as we go along. I would give you direct audio samples were they available, but since this album doesn't come out until Devil's Night (a perhaps purposeful coincidence) there are no clips on Parallel Thought's YouTube channel. On the other hand if you play his remix of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, then try to imagine it without lyrics, you'd start to scratch the surface of what's happening here. The artwork for this album and the previous 3:33 release suggest a Lovecraftian mythology, and on this one in particular it looks as though you'd be walking into a building that's half organic and half electronic - with tentacles growing out all sides and one ominous eye overlooking the landscape. You have to stare at the picture for a while as you listen to almost completely unnamed tracks like "ITMOI-6" and allow yourself to sink into the murky depths. This is an album to listen to in the dark. It might even help if you're high."

MC Wood-Z :: Shakespeare's Bastard Child :: Demilo/MC Wood-Z
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Shakespeare's Bastard Child]"MC Wood-Z took notice of our UK Hip-Hop Month here at and offered to send us "Shakespeare's Bastard Child" as a free iTunes download for review. I took him up on the offer, but the offer was apparently only valid in Euros, because American buyers could not cash it in. The samples of his music intrigued me to the point that I wasn't about to take no for an answer though, so I cashed in some unused iTunes credit I got for my birthday. The reason I bring this up is that the person who gave it to me was from Canada, and he originally bought it for a friend in the UK, but HE couldn't use it since the funds came from a non-UK source. It's amazing that music is a global product these days yet there are so many backward local restrictions on how you buy it. If this review leaves you inclined to buy I recommend the Amazon purchase link because it doesn't seem to be region restricted and is a relatively cheap $8.99. After a few spins of this 40 minute album I'd have to characterize Demilo's as somewhere between "understated" and "minimalistic." As Wood-Z's accent is a little thicker than some of his British contemporaries, I actually find this helpful as a listener, not to mention it distinguishes him from those who drench their verbiage in so much melody the rap gets subsumed in it. Songs like "Under Pressure" achieve the high tempo energy of their title as a result, as you can literally feel Wood-Z's systolic and diastolic raising second by second. "Lost in rage/should have never rattled my cage/You can see it in my eyes, I'm colder than the ice age." It makes him a worthy contemporary of Klashnekoff in terms of his verbally intense delivery. "

MellowHype :: Numbers :: Odd Future
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Numbers]"MellowHype is back. It doesn't feel like they went anywhere though. It's been a year between the official physical release of "BlackenedWhite," but the Odd Future collective itself stays chronically releasing side projects, solo albums, digital downloads and can be seen every week on their TV show Loiter Squad. There exists a small but increasing chance that spin-offs like Mellow could become a victim OF the Hype, if fans of the crew decide there's too much content and scale back their interest. It happened to No Limit Records in the 1990's. It happened to UFC within the last year. So far the Odd Future train shows no sign of slowing down, but they should send out a signal to the next station and make sure the tracks are all straight and level. Speaking of tracks, "Numbers" is a typical MellowHype release with producer Left Brain producing the majority of the 16 tracks. The lone exceptions to this rule are Tyler, the Creator co-producing "666" featuring Mike G, Michael Enzinger co-producing "P2" featuring Earl Sweatshirt, and Hodgy Beats co-producing "Astro" featuring Frank Ocean. The latter is one of the most impressive tracks on the album.Frank Ocean's profession on the chorus that he'll "wear a yellow tux at the Grammys and rock out with my cock out" is pure superstar, and his chance to solo the outro of the song backs it up. Much like previous MellowHype releases though, the rest of the album is a mixed bag. There's no denying that Left Brain is a talented producer and that Hodgy is ever-improving as a lyricist and vocalist, but right or wrong one gets the feeling that there are no filters on that talent. Put it this way - a creative person might come up with a hundred songs in a given day. Ten of them might be good, and one of them might be sheer genius. Some days they might all be duds. Over time though with a good friend/editor to help filter out the bad from the good, a whole album worth of good material will accumulate. "

Rebel MC : Black Meaning Good :: Desire Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Black Meaning Good]"Although he had already rapped about the now epic 'EastEnders' soap opera as early as 1987 (in a typically gimmicky mid-'80s rap tune that went absolutely nowhere), the British audience took proper notice of Michael West when he was emceeing dancey, acid house-inspired tunes by production team Double Trouble in 1989. His appearances on the singles "Just Keep Rockin'" and "Street Tuff," who both charted, served as warning examples for the supporting role British rappers had no desire to be relegated to. Both songs were recycled for his 1990 debut "Rebel Music," which couldn't dispel the impression that Rebel MC was a lightweight able to fulfill the rap needs of the pop/dance world, but not those of the hip-hop movement. One year later Rebel MC took everyone by surprise with the release of "Black Meaning Good." Cleverly paraphrasing the classic Run-D.M.C. bon-mot "Not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good," Rebel MC had nothing less than a linguistic reform in mind when he attacked the fact that in English (and not only there) black is often synonymous with bad. "Black Meaning Good," the combative album opener, doesn't probe the etymology of terms like black market or black plague and therefore jumps to conclusions linguists would likely reject, but it still reveals a fundamental pattern in our society that 'people of color' (as the Americans say) are subject to. A pattern which rap, more than most other genres of entertainment, is fit to address. Even if Rebel MC could be accused of jumping on the political rap bandwagon, he still made a noteworthy statement none of his American peers made this explicitly. "

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