Tuesday April 24, 2018

The (W)rap Up for 2012 - November [1 of 2]
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 9:00PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[Mic Tyson] Sean Price :: Mic Tyson
Duck Down Music

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Sean Price introduced the rap world to Mic Tyson in 2009 and ever since that mixtape we've all been eagerly anticipating the full length. It took almost three full years, but lo and behold, the official "Mic Tyson" album is finally available everywhere - from regular retail outlets like Best Buy to digital download purveyors like Amazon. That's not to say Sean PEEEEE hasn't stayed busy in the interim - in fact he was part of last year's hip-hop supergroup Random Axe and always seems to pop up with a freestyle or a semi-hostile takeover over the airwaves like his appearance on Shade 45's "Toca Tuesdays." Only the indefatigable and flamboyant Sean Price could decide that the first single from his first commercial solo LP in several years would be "Shut the Fuck Up, Part 2." Judging by the cover art, he's not kidding about that. It looks like his cartoon counterpart has been bashing people in the head with a microphone until the head wound up blood red. Then again it's no surprise Price would feel that ruggish when said same single is backed by a bugged out boom bap beat from everybody's favorite California lead-to-gold producer Alchemist. There are few people better at expressing inner hostility toward other emcees while simultaneously bragging about their own abilities than Sean Price. One of the other Alchemist produced tracks may explain this combination best, and in the process coins yet another new nickname for Sean Price: "Bar-Barian." In only two minutes time he manages to "bust heaters at your whole damn clique" while proclaiming "rap niggaz - I doubt if there's/another nigga doin it like me - fuck outta here!!" If you're a Price fan (which I freely admit I am) it only gets better on the song immediately following, as he goes straight for the jugular on the Amp produced "Pyrex," featuring some of the heaviest piano keys heard in hip-hop in some time. "

OST :: The Man With the Iron Fists :: Soul Temple/Universal Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Man With the Iron Fists]

"Unfortunately this Travis Barker song is not part of "The Man With the Iron Fists" soundtrack, despite being featured prominently in the advertising for the movie. It's not even a bonus track. That's frustrating given that RZA is heavily involved in all aspects this movie, including writing and directing it, and releasing the OST on his own Soul Temple imprint. From a corporate standpoint this shouldn't have been hard to work out - Barker's group (Blink-182) is signed to DGC, which is an imprint of Interscope, which is owned by Universal Records. Coincidentally this soundtrack for the Soul Temple imprint is distributed under the Universal Records umbrella. We've got a classic "left hand doesn't know what the right is doing" situation here. Regardless things get out to a hot start with The Black Keys and RZA on "The Baddest Man Alive," a track also co-produced by said same. Wu-Tang Clan familia play a strong part in this soundtrack, which is exactly what you'd expect when one of the Wu's founders is in charge. Even when there's not obviously a Wu member on the song, such as with Kanye West's "White Dress," a quick look behind the scenes reveals that RZA splits the production credit with Mr. West. One can hardly complain given the song is one of West's better efforts of late, putting aside his absurdly annoying champagne flossing for a well narrated tale. The soundtrack's songs work in dialogue from the movie, such as Talib Kweli's smoking "Get Your Way (Sex Is a Weapon)" featuring Res. And if you're looking for a revival of the traditional Wu-Tang Clan sound in group form, "Rivers of Blood" featuring Kool G. Rap and "Six Directions of Boxing" are as close to it as we'll get in this decade - unless RZA can lock everybody in the studio long enough to finish an album together. For better or worse when you do an album that includes the WHOLE Wu familia though and not just the original Clan, you get branches of the tree like Killa Sin on "The Archer." It's not that Frank Dukes made a bad track or that Sin is a bad emcee, but his "these niggaz like March of Dimes rappers" punchlines don't take an average track and elevate it or vice versa. And if you're the hip-hop head who's not into R&B, songs like Corinne Bailey Rae's "Chains" and The Revelations "I Forgot to Be Your Lover" aren't going to do anything for you. "


DJ Paul :: A Person of Interest :: Scale-A-Ton/Select-O-Hits, Inc.
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[A Person of Interest]"Anybody who thought Scale-A-Ton was a weighty album in 2009 with 20 tracks, the co-founding member of Three 6 Mafia has upped the ante in a BIG way. 2012's "A Person of Interest" is nearly 20 minutes longer than his last solo album, and if you buy the physical version you ALSO get a bonus DVD with what the sticker on the cover describes as a "comedy/horror movie" and "never before seen cooking videos." Cooking videos?! If that comes as a surprise you haven't been checking out his YouTube videos, like the one below where he shows you how to make a barbecue style SMOKED pizza. He's quite the gourmand when it comes to cooking, which is why he and Juicy J ultimately appeared on the limited run VH1 series "Famous Food." That experience left me wondering why the Cooking Channel never tried to get him for another short series, or even a one-off special about Memphis barbecue. Regardless DJ Paul is nothing if not chronically busy - he's recording, he's filming videos for YouTube, he's putting out massive 80 minute albums like "A Person of Interest" and filming his own movies - all on a D.I.Y. level with Select-O-Hits doing the distribution. All of this might make you wonder what the future is for Triple Six, and the best I can tell you right now is "on hiatus." J doesn't make a single cameo on this album, and in fact he's busy with his own solo career, having recently hit the charts with his crossover single "Bandz a Make Her Dance." No matter what the future holds for Three 6 Mafia, you have to respect Paul Beauregard's hustle (and that of J) and the fact he's willing to give so much material to a still down and loyal fanbase. He's also the producer of record for every song on his new album, which only adds to the amount of work on his plate, although co-production credits can be found on every song other than intro, outro and song "Unstoppable." His top four collaborators are Shawty Trap, Premo Danger, Gtown Vega and Dream Drumz - the latter of which will already be familiar to many of this review's readers for the single "W.I.L.L. (What I Look Like)" featuring Gucci Mane."


Double A.B. & Dub Sonata :: Media Shower :: Man Bites Dog Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Media Shower]

"Denying the progress of technology is absurd unless you choose to completely isolate yourself in an Amish community or a log cabin up in the mountains. Whether or not you like how interconnected to the internet we all are now, it's a 21st century reality we all have to accept. The manifesto on this disc suggests this is somehow inherently evil using buzzwords like "techno-craze" and "hypnotic" to suggest we've been brainwashed by our cell phones and iPads, leaving us vulnerable to the influence of an omnipresent New World Order. I refuse to view technology in such a reactionary way - it made my childhood better, my teenage years tolerable, my college life more exciting and my current adult career possible. On the other hand, I'm just as frustrated as Double A.B. and Dub Sonata by the manufactured and forced obsolence of every new cell phone or game console, a system that requires you to either constantly shell out money or be left behind in a technology ghetto where you can't do live video chat but all of your friends can. As for the artists themselves, Double A.B. and Dub Sonata have been featured on this website since 2007, individually rather than collectively, and both have earned praise for their work. The former is a Blaze battle competitor who despite the accolades of his peers and numerous websites is far from a household name, and the latter is a producing wunderkind who made one of 2010's most intriguing albums - "Nights In Cuba." Sonata lived up to the album's title, LITERALLY spending his nights in the still Communist (and hard to visit) country so he could capture the authentic Cuban sound in his sampling and recreations. Though it lacked lyrics, the album was unquestionably rap, in that it had the bold vision to mix Cuba's forbidden flavors with Sonata's hip-hop sensibility. "Media Shower" is well served by having Dub Sonata as the producer, as it gives the album a unified sound and Double A.B. a maestro up to his emcee capabilities to craft his sonic landscape. One can't deny that "Doub' and Dub" has a good ring to it rolling off the tongue either, which makes it a natural from a marketing standpoint. A.B.'s delivery is as deliberate as it is constructed, not in a jarring or stilted way, but in the sense that he's an emcee who chooses his words carefully and wants to make sure you understand his point. "


Revolution of the Mind :: Honor in Sin :: Splntr/DJBooth.net
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Honor in Sin] "Revolution of the Mind caught my attention on this year's Snowgoons double barrel "Snowgoons Dynasty." The beat for "Missing Pages" was probably the weakest of all 32, but the MC's politically charged rhymes made me listen up regardless. I pursued Revolution of the Mind and found out they released a free album via DJBooth.net earlier this year. Comprised of rapper I.Sheik and DJ Dfi, the duo has been together since the early '00s and has the co-sign of former Non Phixion MC Sabac Red, who executive-produces "Honor in Sin." Name and title suggest a rather serious affair, which is the case to a large degree. "New Mourning" sets the tone, I.Sheik maintaining a finely balanced vocal intensity, deploying lines like "Revolution of the Mind, a call to the conscience / like Rage in '99 cause 'all hell can't stop us'" and "No justice, no peace; dude, I'm not your slave / Got me on a short leash like this was Abu Ghraib" not at the top of his lungs but still with clear conviction. The most obvious point of reference are Dilated Peoples, only that Rakaa and Ev emcee more smoothly than Sheik, who like many political minded rappers may be just a little too eager to get his message across. Nevertheless he is clearly a dedicated West Coast representative, putting in work for the Bay Area over Keelay & Zaire's blaxploitation background for "Block's Conscience," the album's most relaxed offering (also featuring a strong, soulful but unfortunately uncredited hook). Keelay & Zaire produce two more cuts and the Snowgoons connection results in more quality production. Dfi's own contributions (two beats, plus the DJ track "Gun Talk II") are so solid his talents have to be considered underused on ROTM's sophomore effort. Either way the focus is necessarily on the lyrical content. Born into the turmoil of the Iranian revolution of 1979, I.Sheik still cares about his native country. "Day That I Die" portrays him as a man who hardly abandons his mission, whether as rapper or as political activist. On "Die For My People" he explicates his feelings towards Iran's political history of the last 30 years. Relating how a father dies at the hands of the Shah's henchmen and his son is sacrificed by the regime of the Ayatollahs as a human shield and minesweeper, the song is a powerful reminder that revolutions often simply replace one evil with another. In the final verse I.Sheik arrives in the present time, voicing his support for today's dissidents."


Shyne :: Gangland :: DatPiff.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Gangland] "A RapReviews.com reader encouraged us to cover Shyne's free "Gangland" album from DatPiff.com, noting even as he did so that Shyne should be back in the spotlight but "not for the wrong reasons" like his public feud with Kendrick Lamar. That got me thinking for a minute about whether or not Shyne had ever been in the news for any of the RIGHT reasons? The first time his name even came up in 1998 was controversial as Sean 'Puffy' Combs was accused of trying to find a new rapper to replace the late great Notorious B.I.G., and one has to admit that from the very first Total remix he did the vocal resemblance was eerie. As if Shyne didn't already have that black cloud hanging over his head, he got into a shooting altercation at a New York nightclub late in December 1999 while there with his girlfriend, Puffy and Jennifer Lopez. Some allege that Shyne may have taken the fall for Combs in the aftermath of the incident, but whatever the circumstances, Shyne was sentenced to ten years prison in 2001. Despite that he was still able to put out a new album in 2004, but to make a long story short his criminal record continued generated more hits than his commercial one. THAT record wound up getting him deported to Belize, because it turns out that Jamal Michael Barrow (or if you prefer his new name, Moses Michael Levi) was never naturalized as a U.S. citizen when he came to the States at the age of 13. As if that weren't bad enough the United Kingdom barred him entrance in 2010, deporting him the second he arrived. Shyne doesn't need his feud with Kendrick Lamar to be in the news - he seemingly never hasn't been."


[The Greatest Story Never Told Chapter 2: Bread and Circuses]Saigon :: The Greatest Story Never Told Chapter 2: Bread and Circuses
Suburban Noize Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"If anybody knows the difference it's Brian Daniel Carenard (real) a/k/a Saigon (rap). The popular New York rapper doesn't need to make anything up when it comes to his life - in fact he never even considered a career in hip-hop until he was already doing a prison bid. After bubbling with independent releases and mixtapes for over a decade - during which time he appeared on Entourage, beefed with Prodigy, and got stabbed in the head with a wine bottle - his long-awaited retail album "The Greatest Story Never Told" finally came out in 2011. The potential for a letdown after a build-up for that long was tremendous, but if anything Mr. Carenard OVERDELIVERED on his Suburban Noize debut, creating a timeless album that will be studied and imitated for decades.The challenge for Saigon on "The Greatest Story Never Told Chapter 2: Bread and Circuses" is not that he has to live up to his reputation any more, because he's already proven all the hype about him was true. Now he faces the true career killer in the rap industry - being a victim of your own success. When you deliver a classic album, anything that follows it is judged in comparison to it. It's easy to call that an unfair standard, but when you're capable of greatness, it's not unrealistic to expect more of the same. The rapper in question should have the benefit of time and experience to grow and mature, and the reputation of being a lyrical maestro that should attract all of hip-hop's top producers to hook you up. The only impediment to success should in theory be your own effort put in - if you do everything you did before and work just as hard or a little bit harder, BANG you fired off another classic. In practice that doesn't happen for 99.9% of artists - rap or otherwise. Lasting 2-3 years on top is rare, and having a Nas type run is damn near impossible."


Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson :: The Dice Game :: Mello Music Group
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[The Dice Game]"I probably shouldn't admit this, being a second-generation San Francisco Giants fan, but part of me was rooting for the Detroit Tigers during the World Series. San Francisco won two years ago, and I felt like Detroit needed the win more. Part of my divided loyalties is due to the fact that I have family in Michigan, but mostly it's because Detroit is producing some of the best rappers in the game. "The Dice Game" pairs Detroit beatmaker Apollo Brown with Detroit MC Guilty Simpson for sixteen tracks of grimey raps over dusty breaks. Apollo Brown has been busy since coming on the scene a few years ago. In the past three years he's released collaborations with Hassaan Mackey, Boog Brown, and OC. He's also released a remix album, produced an album with Journalist 103 as The Left, and put out several beat albums. All of these projects have gotten love from critics, and this site gave his collaboration with OC a perfect 10. Guilty Simpson is no slouch, either. He's released two solo albums, and an album with Sean Price and Black Milk on last year's excellent Random Axe project. Apollo Brown is one of the best producers doing classic sample-based hip-hop today. He manages to flip soul samples with boom-bap drums in a way that never sounds anachronistic or tired. Hip-hop traditionalists walk a fine line between respecting classic hip-hop and stagnating. Apollo Brown carries on the tradition of sample-based hip-hop without sounding like he's running out of ideas or merely imitating what came before. He's kind of like the Jack White of hip-hop, reinvigorating those old school sounds and carrying them into this century. Granted, none of the beats here are groundbreaking, but they all sound good."


Bru-Tang Clan (Akrobatik) :: Enter Tha 63 Chambahs :: {self-distributed)
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Enter Tha 63 Chambahs] "That unfailing source of rap's lyrical findings, The Original Hip-Hop Lyrics Archive, is able to provide answers where the average rap listener is stumped. Like say you were wondering what rappers think of when they think of ice hockey - if they do at all. As far as names dropped go, Wayne Gretzky, the Great One, is by far the most frequently mentioned player in rap lyrics. But the fact that rappers have also referenced the likes of Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Eric Lindros, Richard Zednick and Chris Pronger hints at a familiarity with the game that may not be solely based on playing video games. The cool thing about 'rap metaphors' (an umbrella term for all sorts of analogies) is that they can establish a connection where there seemingly is none (much like samples musically). So you think rap and hockey have nothing in common? Common the rapper might have felt similarly when he quipped, "I stand out like a nigga on a hockey team," but he still connected them both with his analogy. 2Pac's Outlawz, while insisting on the rap = black, hockey = white distinction, drew an even closer comparison, repeatedly making the point that "the streets is black hockey." Meanwhile MC Serch used the motif to underline the fact that he wasn't black: "Got crazy game, so no one can stop me / But hey yo - I'm white, I guess my game is hockey." "


Lil Fame & Termanology :: Lil Fame & Termanology = Fizzyology :: Brick Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Lil Fame & Termanology = Fizzyology]"There's little doubt that M.O.P. is among hip-hop's most venerated hardrocks, a tandem of screaming Brownsville emcees matched only in NYC machismo by the earliest works of Onyx. While the greatest strength and subsequent biggest weakness of Onyx was that Sticky Fingaz always outshined his comrades, the M.O.P. team of Billy Danze and Lil Fame always seemed perfectly matched to each other in lyrical delivery and intensity. Though an infrequent song here or there would feature a cameo from only one of the two, it never felt quite right unless they both showed up to destroy a remix. Womack and Danzini seemed totally inseparable...... until now. When the idea of "Fizzyology" first started circulating online I was naturally intrigued, though of the two Termanology has much more of a track record of collaborative projects. In fact I can't think of a single "Fame + X = Group" other than "Fame + Danze = M.O.P." which just goes to show how odd "Fizzyology" can be at first. If you're a long time M.O.P. fan (and I am) you're used to Fame and Danze completing each other's lines, yelling out ad libs during each other's verses, punctuating each other's punchlines, and generally one-upping each other in verbally embodying testosterone. Termanology is not "soft" by any means, but you wouldn't be wrong for wondering how the relatively mellow rapper (at least by comparison) could match with Fizzy Womack. As it turns out though "From the Streets" proves that Termanology CAN be amped up to Fame's level - not to mention guest star Freeway!Of course it doesn't hurt that Statik Selektah produced a sweet track for all three to rap over, nor that DJ Premier laces the incredibly beautifully understated "Play Dirty" with Busta Rhymes and Styles P. The piano loop would sound awkward and wrong in anything other than a hip-hop context, but the minor keys mix with the banging bass and scratched in DMX drop "my hands stay dirty cause I play dirty" in the way only Primo can do to make your neck hair stand up."


Mad Dukez & Fresh Kils :: Monsters :: DeepThinka Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Monsters]"What do you get when one of Toronto's top producers links up with one of Buffalo's fastest rising emcees? You get MONSTERS of course. The five song "Monsters" EP is a prelude to a full length effort that Dukez and Kils are working on entitled "Gettin' Gatsby'd," a fact evidenced by the cinematic dialogue opening "Started Small." That album is described by the artists as "a conceptual album paying homage to the roaring twenties" but the key word here is "homage." I don't think any of the flappers of the 1920's danced to beats like these in speakeasies while drinking bathtub gin, and for that I'm glad, because Kils has been and CONTINUES to be on the cutting edge of production. The things he can do with a MPC live have to be seen to be believed, but to get down with "Started Small" all you have to do is listen.The EP itself seems more inspired by Halloween than 1920's socialites, not just because of the title but because the accompanying artwork has someone who looks like Andy Milonakis unleashing a blood-curdiling scream. Don't be scared homey. Dukez is a humble and thoughtful artist who lets his feelings be known on songs like "Maddist Anthem." Overcoming the doubters is a theme for Dukez as he found "a little resistance/as I started the imprint" but nonetheless was able to achieve his dreams. Kils merges boom bap with big bass bottom on tracks like "Stupid Hard," a song Dukez often uses to close out his live sets due to the energetic vibe. Dukez brings out his inner braggart over the boom and pound: "Money like Republicans/freer than a Democrat [...] I see pussy, youse a thundercat/Countin up the dollars, fillin up a duffel bag." It doesn't cut the razor's edge of hip-hop, but it's undeniably head-nodding. "


royceBIRTH :: the REBIRTH :: {self-distributed)
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[the REBIRTH] "Quick, name all the rapper/producers who are equally good at both. Having trouble coming up with any? Same here. Almost every rapper/producer is better at one craft than the other. Madlib and Dre are both brilliant producers and mediocre rappers. Black Milk is a better rapper than either of them, but his rhymes don't quite equal his beats. The RZA has always been one of the weakest MCs in the Wu: he's fine for a bar or two, but his solo albums prove that his greatest strength lies behind the boards (or maybe behind the camera). Even the late J Dilla, who has been canonized into the hip-hop pantheon, was never brilliant on the mic. So what does that leave us? El-P, Q-Tip, and maybe Kanye West as exceptions to the rule, and to be honest I've never been a fan of Kanye's rapping. The point is that you can be a great rapper or a great producer, but it is very rare that you are great at both.That's not stopping Toronto MC royceBIRTH from trying. "TheREBIRTH" is his debut album, 17 tracks of heartfelt rapping over his own production. Let's start with the positive: royceBIRTH is a solid producer. His beats are soulful and musical, and he gets some nice drum sounds. He seasons his beats with dashes of piano and acoustic guitars to create beats that are as soothing and uplifting as the lyrics royceBIRTH is putting across. The record sounds nice from start to finish. He says on his Bandcamp page that "This album is my journal." That speaks to the main problem with "theREBIRTH." The lyrics would be great as journal entries describing a highly personal and individual experience, but there isn't much that the listener can relate to. It's a guy describing his issues his struggles, with little effort to make it relatable to anyone else. "


[Sorry to Bother You] The Coup :: Sorry to Bother You
ANTI-/Epitaph Records

Author: Zach 'Goose' Gase
Click here to find out more!

"This year has been quite a year in terms of politically charged hip hop. Brother Ali, Killer Mike and Lupe Fiasco have all dropped albums channeling Public Enemy, Ice Cube and KRS-One, to varying success. But it wouldn't be right to discuss political hip hop, without mentioning the Bay Area duo, The Coup. Boots Riley and company have dropped their fist album in six and a half year with "Sorry to Bother You," which features their style of socially consciousness paired with a great sense of humor.What makes "Sorry to Bother You" different from past Coup records is it has more of an electronic vibe. The funk is still there, but tracks like "The Gods of Science" feature a more synthy bassline, without sacrificing any funk. Tracks like "Strange Arithmetic" and "Your Parents' Cocaine" also follow this formula with great success. The album also features more organic production like the guitar-heavy "The Guillotine" and horn-driven "This Year." The album is mostly filled with high energy cuts like "Magic Clap" and "You Are Not A Riot (an RSVP from David Siqueiros to Andy Warhol)," but one of the biggest highlights on the album comes in form of the stripped down tracks like "We've Got a lot to Teach You Casius Green," which features strong vocals from Pam the Funkstress. The Coup continues its great legacy of dropping heavy subject matter, while still making it fun for the listener. While "Sorry to Bother You" isn't nearly on the level of "R.A.P. Music" or "Mourning in America…," it doesn't really try to be. What makes this record successful, is exactly what Lupe refused to do on "The Great American Rap Album:" make enjoyable songs first and spread a message second. "


various artists :: Reggae Golden Jubilee – Origins of Jamaican Music :: VP Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Reggae Golden Jubilee – Origins of Jamaican Music]"This year is Jamaica's 50th anniversary as an independent nation. To celebrate, Edward Seaga, who helped draft Jamaica's constitution and was Prime Minister in the 1980s, has curated a four-disc box set that highlights the development of Jamaican music. It may seem odd to have a politician curate a collection of music, but Edward Seaga is more than just a politician. He worked in the music industry prior to his career in politics, founding the West Indian Recording Limited label, which he later sold to Byron Lee. The man knows his reggae, especially early reggae, which is featured heavily on this set. In fact, what sets "Reggae Golden Jubilee" apart from the many other reggae compilations out there, including VP's own "Out of Many" compilation released earlier this year, is the emphasis on early Jamaican music, and the breadth of music covered. The first disc is all early ska and reggae by artists like Desmond Dekker, Derrick Morgan, Justin Hinds, and Prince Buster. Some of these songs are classics that you may have heard on other compilations ("Carry Go Bring Home," "My Boy Lollipop,"), but there are also some deep cuts. You can hear the influence of early American R&B on the Jamaican artists on these early tracks. Theophilus Beckford's "Easy Snapping" and Higgs and Wilson's "Manny Oh" sound like early sixties doo-wop with a Jamaican lilt. The island was heavily influenced by American music: the fact that so many reggae singers have falsettos is directly attributable to the popularity of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. Listening to Disc One you can hear the Jamaican record industry maturing: the recording quality gets better, the songwriting gets more complex, and the artists start to find their own distinct Jamaican sound. By the end of the album you are at Bob Marley's classic "Trenchtown Rock," and Jamaican music has truly come into its own."


Latyrx :: Disconnection EP :: Latyramid, Inc.
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Disconnection EP]"The original Latyrx album was one of the most profound hip-hop experiences I had in my college years. It represented everything to me that now gets labelled as "progressive" about hip-hop. Experimenting with unconventional flows and musical styles, Lateef and Lyrics Born were at the cutting edge of hip-hop, the sleeping California giant arisen - and one that seemingly decided to go back to bed while a generation of lackluster "trapping" emcees rose to popularity. Mourning their short career wasn't necessary though given Lyrics Born continued on, but it made you wonder what they COULD have done if the market was there and their determination remained in tact. If these two verses from "Rushin' Attack" don't seem to have anything to do with each other, that's part of the magic and mystery of Latyrx. The union of these two rappers was kindred spirits moving in the same direction, even though their styles were distinctly divergent. Lyrics Born a/k/a Tom Shimura has always been an introspective, personal and insightful emcee who sees both himself and the world more clearly than his peers. He's also got the ability to flip up his rap to a smooth croon on a dime. Lateef Daumont a/k/a The Truthspeaker first made his reputation on a cult classic single called "The Wreckoning" but outside of his partnership with Born and rare cameo appearances seemed a reluctant hip-hop star at best, tormented by his own talent and the expectations of his peers. In theory "Disconnection" is just a taste of a full length album to come in 2013, and if so it's worth salivating for. Despite the fact that over 15 years have gone by since their debut, you wouldn't know the difference if you let one album end and the EP begin. "Call to Arms" shows their commitment not just to raise up their native Bay Area hip-hop, but to do what they did so well on their first album despite two different styles - speak with one unified voice as a duo on whatever happens to be their motivation. In this case it's a call for human rights, a cry for dignity, a statement for equality that even inspires a brief cameo appearance by fellow California legend Boots of The Coup."


Nicki Minaj :: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded the Re-Up :: Cash Money Records
as reviewed by Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania

[Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded the Re-Up]"Just when you thought it couldn't get anymore confusing… Are you ready for more "Pink Friday" from Nicki Minaj? It's not the first one, but a second version of the second one, making it the third one. But not the official third one, not even a "Remix – no no, this is a "Re-Up" (to use the "drugs have nothing to do with this album" terminology). Basically, there is an all-new eight-track EP added separately, in addition to the original nineteen-song album released earlier this year. It brings the entire effort up to over 100 minutes worth of fresh '12 material from Minaj, and that is nothing to sniff at. If you buy the physical copy, you also get some sort of DVD with another hour and a half worth of who knows what (I'm assuming music videos and concert footage). But for now, let us focus on the digital music-only version. You may recall in my original review of "Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded" that I had numerous misgivings about the album. It's not that I didn't enjoy quite a few numbers – I most certainly did. It's just that it felt like a double album squeezed into one disc, with a lot of fat attached and a complete lack of soul. What I can now admit, more than six months later, is that I have since listened to it, a lot. Well, not the whole thing, but certainly my own playlist of a dozen songs. Seriously, I've listened to it more (particularly at the gym) than pretty much anything else this year (which came as a surprise to me too). So when "The Re-Up" was announced, it was a pleasant surprise – it represents a chance for Minaj to balance out the feel of the album, to offer a new batch of songs to fans that wish to cherry-pick their favourites and personalise them. It's worth mentioning that this is pretty much exactly what Lady Gaga – one of Nicki's primary influences – initially did with "The Fame" and "The Fame Monster" (and RedOne produced much of Gaga's work before his "Starships" and "Pound the Alarm" days)."


P.O.S. :: We Don't Even Live Here :: Rhymesayers Entertainment
as reviewed by Zach 'Goose' Gase

[We Don't Even Live Here]"For Rhymesayers Ent. releases, good things come in threes. Chasing the heels of Aesop Rock's "Skelethon" and Brother Ali's "Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color," P.O.S drops his first album since his 2009 breakthrough "Never Better." The Twin Cities rapper, best known for combining elements of hip hop and heavy metal, continues to push hip hop's boundaries, this time using heavy electronic sounds. The harsh synth-driven record, "We Don't Even Live Here" is as heavy as his previous releases, but P.O.S's lyrical content tends to be more easy-going than on previous releases. By no means "We Don't Even Live Here" a soft record, but P.O.S sounds like he's having more fun on his first album in three years, than he has on previous records. "Fuck Your Stuff" is an anthem for being reckless and Hulk-smashing anything in sight. I highly suggest playing this while running a 5K or bench pressing. "Get Down," which features a guest verse from Mike Mictlan, features some crazy synth work, and is the closest a rapper named Pissed Off Stef is ever going to get to light-hearted. "We Don't Even Live Here" is solid front-to-back and is arguably a more consistent record than "Never Better." The new record also doesn't seem to have as many goosebump-inducing moments like "Purexed," "Optimist (We Are Not For Them)," or "The Brave and The Snake," from his 2009 record. "We Don't Even Live Here's" best record is "Where We Land," which features Justin Vernon (best known from Bon Iver and his many features on Kanye's last solo effort). This is a match made in Heaven, as Vernon's closing bridge along with P.O.S's memorable hook makes the track one of the year's best album cuts. "


PremRock :: Mark's Wild Years :: Bandcamp.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Mark's Wild Years] "Having become a convert to Planet PremRock back in 2011 on his album with Willie Green, I was more than pleased to hear he was back in 2012 with "Mark's Wild Years." As a bonus this brand new LP is available via a name your own price option. Now there's only two ways you could decide what to pay +before+ downloading the album - take my advice at the end of this review or stream the album via the embedded player below to know whether or not you feel it. I'm going to suggest doing BOTH. "Mark's Wild Years" is a conceptual album inspired by singer and songwriter Tom Waits, which is made obvious from the opening song "Step Right Up," which interpolates the bassline from the Waits jam of the same name - although PremRock decides to rap over it at double the speed. If you're not familiar with Waits he's got a raspy growling vocal delivery, one which harkens back to old times blues, and one almost inconceivable coming out of a skinny white guy from Pomona. If that seems blunt or unfair, I dare you to listen to the original version of "Step Right Up" and not think you were listening to Lightnin' Hopkins mixed with Louis Armstrong. A familiarity with Waits' extensive catalogue can improve your listening experience, but isn't strictly necessary thanks to Prem's narrative ability and stellar delivery. A case in point is the song "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Prague," which is a direct rift on Tom Waits' "Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis." The original version is a narrative from a prostitute writing a letter to a john named Charlie, and in this case PremRock changes up the context so that he's the protagonist reading the hooker's letter. "


Skipp Whitman :: 5AM :: WTMN&Co
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[5AM]"Since the first rappers entered a recording studio, hip-hop has been a success story, one often told first-hand by the artists themselves. Rappers soon learned that their stories became more interesting when they related not only the success but also the struggle that comes before it. Even the highly talented but for whatever reason relatively unsuccessful ones began to translate their fate as starving artists into engaging tales. Lately, however, it's all gotten a bit too much, with every other up-and-comer pestering the world about how badly he wants rap success. Skipp Whitman too ponders "how to make a living only from makin' songs," but he does it with so much feeling and flair that it's impossible to lump him with all these kids expecting fame to be handed to them on a silver platter, not with inspiring lines like "A pipe dream is keepin' me up so I may as well / hop to it - and maybe we sell." It helps that musically "5AM" is absolutely up to date, Whitman infusing his tracks with pop and electronica influences and not shying away from singing hooks. With a relaxed tone and delivery somewhere between Defari and Wiz Khalifa, he contemplates his situation over studied, solemn compositions, substituting fabricated rap swag with genuine hip-hop attitude ("I arm myself with a force field / It feels natural, while MC's got that forced feel"). He touches on topics that should be familiar to anybody pursuing a long-term goal: paying bills, maintaining relationships, handling criticism, being creative, overcoming stereotypes. Although he focuses almost exclusively on himself, he does widen the scope on "Dreams," where he involves listeners who fight a similar uphill battle."


[Miles to Go] Relic (Rel McCoy) :: Miles to Go
Must Be Santa/Gamma Delta Productions

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Relic has undergone a slight change since he last checked in with RapReviews in 2009 and now has a new pseudonym - Rel McCoy. The two appear to be interchangeable though and that's a good thing, since I really don't want Relic being confused with the German house band Real McCoy who had crossover success with the song "Another Night" in the 1990's. Nothing against Real McCoy mind you - they're the kind of music you'd hear in a glow stick waving warehouse party - while Relic is music for a smoke-filled underground hip-hop club. Adjust the age a year younger, substitute Melle Mel for UTFO, and note I never had a fade - other than that Relic is essentially telling my life story with "Work of Heart." I never did get a set of turntables, but I made the pause tapes (still have some) and definitely got giddy for any new rap video I saw on TV at that age. Relic is intentionally or not playing to my bias on "Miles to Go" by professing his love for hip-hop music and culture. You'd certainly have to love it to go to the lengths Relic does, as he's a self-produced rapper who hails from the cold clime of Brampton, Ontario. When he dropped "The Green Light" a few years back it was his coming out party, as to that point he was better known as a producer for other Canadian acts."


A$AP Mob :: Lord$ Never Worry :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Lord$ Never Worry] "With the exception of the Goodie Mob (which was assumedly an acronym for 'the good die mostly over bullshit'), the 'mob' in rap music typically follows a solo star, usually consisting of longtime crew members or constituting a new camp: Da Lench Mob (Ice Cube), Facemob (Scarface), Mob Figaz (C-Bo), Speedknot Mobstaz (Twista). It might seem similar with A$AP Mob, the Harlem-centered collective whose A$AP Rocky skyrocketed to fame a little over a year ago, but as those more familiar with the phenomenon know, A$AP has been around before Rocky, not necessarily as a group of musicians but definitely as a clique of cool kids a young Rakim Mayers once looked up to. It was the A$AP Mob who gave A$AP Rocky his name, not the other way around. Nevertheless "Lord$ Never Worry" adheres in an almost old-fashioned way to the logic of the music business, gathering all rapping and producing A$AP Rocky affiliates on one promotional mixtape. What some years ago would have merely been a deja-vu is now an exciting prospect, because these guys are definitely on some other shit. Previously A$AP Rocky attracted attention with his artistic affinity to Houston rap. "Lord$ Never Worry" proves conclusively that the crew is even deeper into obscure (at least from a NY-centric perspective) regional rap than "LiveLoveA$AP" hinted at. "Lord$ Never Worry" is a throwback deluxe to 1995-2005. A$AP Ferg has soaked up just about every bizarre rap style that ever surfaced between Sacramento and Memphis. One single verse into the album, A$AP Rocky has already checked No Limit and Cash Money. And A$AP Ant and A$AP Nast have a ruggishness to their thuggishness compared to the mass manufactured 50 Cent models of the last decade."


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