Rick Ross :: Rich Forever :: LiveMixtapes.com
as reviewed by Pedro 'DJ Complejo' Hernandez
"Me and Rick Ross, not the real Ricky Ross, have a love/hate relationship. I love some of his music, hate what he stands for. It wasn't always this way. When "Hustlin" first dropped I jammed the song like everybody else did and was actually impressed the pudgy rapper who used to do cameos in Trick Daddy and Trina videos had scored a hit of his own. As Ross piled up the hits I remained impressed, but still didn't consider any of his albums worthy of owning due to their rather shallow nature. Once his past as "Officer Ricky" was exposed I couldn't take the guy seriously at all. My issue has never been with the fact Rick Ross was a C.O. - I think him going to college and being gainfully employed is actually an example of the man's hustle and I commend him for that. My issue has always been the fact he denied his past and continues to push the glorified lie that is a drug dealer's lifestyle. Of course, the world doesn't revolve around me and as people have pointed out before - I may be taking rappers a bit too seriously. In Rick Ross' case, when you strip his music of any expectations and take it for what it is you can't deny that he continues to make catchy music with good beats that people like. "Rich Forever" is no different as the rapper cooks up another batch of ballin, blingin fantasies served over exquisite production. "
Ritmo Machine :: Welcome to the Ritmo Machine :: Nacional Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"In the wake of Barack Obama's election, Hua Hsu wrote an article that appeared in the Atlantic titled "The End of White America?" He wrote about the changing demographics of the country, and how the election of the first non-white president was a sign of the multicultural, mutli-hued future to come. "As a purely demographic matter..."white America" ... may cease to exist in 2040, 2050, or 2060, or later still, Hsu writes. " But where the culture is concerned, it's already all but finished. Instead of the long-standing model of assimilation toward a common center, the culture is being remade in the image of white America's multiethnic, multicolored heirs." In the face of these demographic shifts, a white person has two options: they can decide to feel besieged, overwhelmed and outnumbered. The wave of white rage that led to the rise of the Tea Party is one example, or the wave of Islamaphobia in recent years (contrary to what conservatives say, it is possible to have serious concerns about aspects of a religion without hating everyone who practices it). The other option is to go with it, and enjoy the unique meshing of cultures and traditions that comes with being an American. Enter the Ritmo Machine, a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-genre group combining the best elements of hip-hop, rock, funk, and Latin music. The two main co-conspirators are Eric Bobo, a percussionist who has worked with Cypress Hill and the Beastie Boys (speaking of white people embracing diversity), and Chilean DJ/turntablist Latin Bitman."
Small Professor :: Gigantic, Vol. 1 :: Diamond Music Group
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"A couple of weeks ago Mike Baber reviewed Small Professor's "Gigantic, Vol. 0" - released as a prelude to his more official commercial debut that drops today - "Gigantic, Vol. 1." The Philadelphia based, self-described "progressive" hip-hop artist obviously and whimsically referring to the Large Professor of Main Source fame with his name, which is fine to me. As a producer there are few better people you could be inspired by, and although his rap career has been marked by long periods of inactivity, the albums he's part of have definitely made a lasting impact on hip-hop history. The Small(er) Professor seems more inclined to stick to the production side of the game. As such he's working with his own all-star list of rappers he knows and feels on the mic, and if you are a regular reader of this site you'll be happy with a lot of his choices. Tanya Morgan member Von Pea blows up his self-titled track "P(ea) Gets Off." Perennial video game rap head Random drops the 8-bit in favor of a flavorful Small Pro loop for the heartfelt "Play It By Ear," pitching his affections to an unimpressed beauty who only sees $ signs in her eyes. The menacing "Spare Razor" features two of the deadliest rhymers on the underground - Guilty Simpson and Reef the Lost Cauze. "
Unique and Dashan :: Black to the Future :: Warlock Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Matt Jost
""Black to the future - what a funky concept," Def Jef pondered on his 1989 album "Just a Poet With Soul." The native New Yorker had found a label and some success out west in Los Angeles. That same year Brooklyn duo Unique and Dashan had the same inspiration and called their debut LP "Black to the Future." They raised the flag and sailed under the protection of the red, black and green. If that turn of phrase sounds somewhat familiar, it's because you've heard the late Professor X on X Clan's "To the East, Blackwards" and "Xodus." I may have been vaguely aware of Unique and Dashan and "Black to the Future," spotting these names on some collector's list or having seen the record itself many years ago. But I was completely unaware that this was in fact the starting point for the Blackwatch Movement. Only the 2011 Traffic Entertainment reissue enlightened me to the connection, the sticker on it calling it 'The rarest of X-Clan's Blackwatch Movement albums.' You don't have to wait long for Professor X to appear as his is the first voice to be heard on the album. He pops up seven more times, almost always with his trademark "Vanglorious / This is protected by the red, the black and the green / With a key / Sissyyyy!" Additionally, X (Lumumba Carson) and X Clan's Paradise (Claude Grey) are credited for the production, alongside a certain H. Kennedy. "
Wiley :: Evolve or Be Extinct :: Big Dada Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania's review of "See Clear Now" in 2009 illustrates one thing - even Wiley's own countrymen find him befuddling. He came as close to describing him as any critic is likely to though, finding that his musical style was a mixture of "garage, drum n' bass and dub-step with hip-hop." Last year on "100% Publishing" I made my own attempt to figure the enigmatic rapper out, only to find a frustrating difference in quality between his beats and rhymes - the latter definitely being Wiley's strength. The genre he calls "Grime" is undoubtedly meant to be repetitive and harsh, but perhaps North American ears aren't meant for his melting pot mixture of music. If that's true then the prolific nature of Wiley's releases is going to frustrate music critics for years to come, because "Evolve or Be Extinct" is his SECOND album since "100% Publishing" in the last six months. If that's not mind-boggling enough, consider that "Evolve or Be Extinct" is actually a DOUBLE album, although thankfully the review copy I was sent was pared down to just 11 out of 22 tracks. Whatever else you can say about Richard Kylea Cowie, you can't say he's not a hard working chap from the Bow area of London. Being prolific can be a curse though - it can lead to overexposure (see Plies) or burning out too quickly (see DMX) if not both. "
"It would be the height of dishonesty if I didn't tell you from the jump that Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr. b/k/a Common is one of my favorite artists out of the last 30 years. He's on a short list of hip-hop artists I respect the most, not just for making timeless musical classics, but for espousing an artistic and spiritual philosophy I connect with on a deeply personal level. On a short list of the most important concerts I've ever been to, seeing Common perform at The Metro in Chicago is either #1 or #2. Whenever people make those "if you have to be stranded on a desert island" lists and only a few albums can make the cut, I always include "Resurrection" and "Finding Forever" usually isn't far behind. He's got a 20 year track record of hitting me in the soul with his lyrical flow, vocal tone, and impeccable musical acumen. And yet the truth is the very fact I'm a long time unapologetic fan of Common is why it didn't originally make sense for me to review "The Dreamer/The Believer." I know damn well that I'm biased about his music, though I think I've still been able to discern when Common albums aren't up to HIS standards (and "Electric Circus" immediately comes to mind). Nevertheless I put off reviewing this album for several weeks and solicited staffers for coverage, and was surprised that nobody took the offer. Perhaps nobody wanted to be in the position Jay Soul found himself in when he gave "Universal Mind Control" a harsh review. Some of the feedback was due to the unusual/experimental way he wrote it up, but even putting that aside it was hard to ignore a 4.5 for beats and 6.5 for rhymes."
various artists :: Down South Block Starz :: Block Starz Music
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"With "Down South Block Starz" the "Block Starz" series enters its fourth season. Like previous editions, the sampler offers a platform for lesser known regional artists. The promotion mentions two Block Starz alumni who since went on to bigger things - Wiz Khalifa and Machine Gun Kelly. Their status may therefore be subject to change, but right now the acts featured on "Down South Block Starz" can't bank on the name recognition that traditionally helps sell rap music. The only household name is Lil' Flip, who assists New Orleans duo Southern Dynasty on "Pop a Band." Another group to profit from H-Town expertise are Hazel Green, AL's Loced Out Entertainment, who team up with Swishahouse's Lil Young for "Blowing Swishas in Tha House," a smoked out session over a solid concoction of low and high strings. Coincidentally or not, the two songs mentioned are delivered with a certain aplomb. They give off an air of coolness whereas the rest of the offerings seem to be trying a little bit too hard. Representing Baton Rouge, LA, Delwin The Krazyman has a thing for flamboyant sparring partners (Ceddybu Da Rap Sumo, Lega-C) but both "Macho Man" and "Sex Fein" are the type of dopey, dumbed down fare that got southern rap a bad name. The stereotype is reinforced by Ariginal (Fort Lauderdale, FL) and his "Out here grindin'/'bout my money" platitudes on "See Ya Boy". He's a little more creative on "Swaginonamillion" but limits himself with that same ol' "Diamonds in my watch, girls on my jock / still posted with that white girl on the block" talk. "
"Hip-hop scenes outside of America seem to be more unified. This does not mean that international hip-hop scenes shadow their artists under one, distinct style; it means that all types of artists with different styles belong to the same movement. American record labels tend to target their product towards subgroups within a larger hip-hop audience, international labels and scenes create hip-hop in all shapes and forms for their smaller, hungrier audience. Take URBNET for example. URBNET is a record label that has a diverse range of Canada's finest hip-hop artists, from D-Sisive to DL Incognito to Arabesque, all with different ways of skinning a song and making it sound pretty. URBNET has been around for awhile, putting out albums and compilations to keep Canada's hip-hop scene running, and "URBNET Certified Vol. 1" is URBNET's sample platter of their 2012 releases. The compilation can swing from spoken word with avant-garde production to ghetto laments with a soulful backdrop in the blink of an eye. It's a true "sampler" in every sense of the word, with different tastes and methods used with each song. The end result can be off-putting to those who prefer a certain type of hip-hop, but more eclectic and open-minded fans can enjoy the refreshing pace in which the album switches stances. "
"Homeboy Sandman is a rapper from Queens, NYC. He has released two well-received solo albums, 2008's Actual Factual Pterodactyl" and 2010's "The Good Sun." This EP is notable for two reasons. For one thing, it is the first release by Homeboy on the West Coast label Stones Throw. Stones Throw has been releasing more and more non-hip-hop albums lately, so it's nice to see the label return to its roots, and add another MC to its roster. This EP is also one of the first releases that Stones Throw is offering as part of its subscription plan via Drip.fm. The idea is that you pay ten bucks a month and get digital copies of every new Stones Throw release. The first month's offerings were a instrumental version of MED's "Classic," the "Minimal Wave Tapes Volume ," which is a collection of electronic music, and the Homeboy Sandman EP. Drip.fm was started by the guys behind electronic label Ghostly International. It's an interesting concept, and worthwhile for fans of most of a label's output. Hopefully the concept bears fruit. Of course you can buy this on iTunes, Emusic, at Stones Throw's site, Amazon, or one of the few remaining record stores in the world. This being Stones Throw, the packaging is so pretty you may want to fork over an extra four bucks for the vinyl. "
Lyriciss :: The Balance: Money EP :: Lyriciss/DJ Booth
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"How 'bout that? A rapper's name which also describes his occupation for a living. Lyriciss is a Washington, D.C. born and Maryland raised rapper who has quickly risen from obscurity thanks to a series of free EP releases being put out through DJ Booth. If you want to check out the first installment "Respect" put out last November feel free, but here we'll be focusing on the "Money" chapter which came out exactly a week ago on January 24th. The funky fresh flute samples of "Get It and Go" remind me of The Beatnuts for some reason, but production is handled by the aptly named Soulful! (The exclamation point is part of his name.) Scratches are handled by DJ I-Dee, which is a pretty big hook-up for someone relatively new on the scene. I have the feeling that's the first of many such collaborations to come though. There are eight songs on "The Balance: Money EP," but that's slightly deceptive given that it's actually four original songs with two different takes - a dirty and a radio clean version. Nevertheless Lyriciss is making the most of the opportunity and "killin niggaz like diabetes and cigarettes" on songs like "The Agena" produced by Grussle. It's hard to miss the Junior M.A.F.I.A. samples in the background here and there, but they are very secondary to the symphonic instruments and harmonized singers that Grussle sampled. "
"Indeed "Black Belt Theatre" is precisely as Planet Asia describes. Inspired by classic kung-fu and blaxploitation films, Asia's latest album is a 20 track odyssey of thick, dusty soul loops served with a side of brash, intelligent gangsterism. As his ultimate goal for this album was to make it feel like a movie, Asia recruited a lengthy list of guest stars to fill the various "roles." The guest list is as lengthy as it is diverse with Talib Kweli, Paul Wall, Raekwon, The Jacka, Mistah Fab, Ras Kass, Torae, and Fashawn being some of the names featured here. The result is an epic experience that is sure to please Planet Asia fans and gain him some new ones along the way. As seems to be the recurring theme for many underground lyricists like Planet Asia, production has always been the one weak point in Asia's catalog. Listeners were reminded of what Planet Asia can do over an album's worth of dope production with "Pain Language" and "Black Belt Theatre" is just as solid musically. Of the big name producers on here, both Khrysis and Oh No deliver as promised. "Lost and Found" (produced by Khrysis) is a sweet, soulful mix of stuttering drums and vocal samples. "No Apologies" (produced by Oh No) is short, but hits hard with a mellow combination of chopped vocals and horns. "Stay Ready" finds Oh No pumping more energy into a similar formula of chopped vocals and instruments."
"From rap music, to appearing in Chrysler ads, "The Price is Right" and "Starsky & Hutch," Snoop Dogg is the quintessential hip-hop icon and mogul. He's also made an equal amount of headlines for his status as hip-hop's marijuana ambassador, either through his songs or many brushes with the law. Fittingly, the D-oh-double-G has decided to follow in the footsteps of Method Man and Redman's "How High" and share a blunt with another weed connoisseur, Wiz Khalifa, as they both star in the upcoming film "Mac & Devin Go to High School." Released in December 2011, Snoop and Wiz are featured on every track of this record as they attempt to combine their creativity on the mic and produce a quality soundtrack for their film. As a duo, Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa sound like they have been rhyming together for years. From the start of the record, the chemistry between the rappers is apparent as they both give off a fresh energy that differs from their solo albums. A good example of this is the funky, atmospheric "You Can Put it in a Zag, I'mma Put it in a Blunt," where both emcees cleverly trade joint-influenced rhymes every four bars. "
"Speech Debelle's early career was in many ways the ideal example of being undone by your own success. Her debut album "Speech Therapy" won the coveted Mercury Music Prize as the best album in the UK in 2009. Not just the best rap album mind you - the best album in ANY genre. This created unbelievably high expectations that her album would be an instantaneous mainstream success and go platinum - neither of which occurred. I don't think that means the journalists, writers and musicians who voted for the Mercury Prize got it wrong; if anything it was proof they got it RIGHT. Her album was not an easily digestible puff of commercial fluff that dissolved the moment it was tasted aurally, and as such not the easiest to sell to a pop music audience. Debelle hasn't toned her words down on "Freedom of Speech" at all. She's actually turned things up a notch or two. The song "Blaze Up a Fire" is a response to the London riots of August 2011, drawing a general comparison to the political upheaval found in Arab countries. Speech is joined by Realism and Roots Manuva on the track, but her quiet vocals are heard the loudest. In many ways she strikes me as a British Bahamadia - easy to underestimate because she speaks softly even though she carries a VERY big stick. Of course it's easy to make a point but much harder to make one people want to listen to, which was why her first album was a tough sell. I think this time around people will find that her mixture of beats and rhymes is on point. "
"Minnesota born and raised T.Q.D has been active as a rap artist since the late 1990's, but started to make noise as a soloist in the 2000's with albums like "Not Yet" and "Clench, Grit, Breathe." If nothing else you can say that he's resilient and determined to succeed. Early RR reviews were somewhat harsh, yet arguably fair, in their assessment of his talent and abilities. Susan 'susiQ' Kim noted his debut showed plenty of potential yet observed "his lyricism is short of substance and cadence." Pedro Hernandez gave solid marks for production, but noted that "the album is one big muddled mess when it comes to focus and lyrics." If criticism can serve to make an artist evaluate and improve their output, it's fair to say our writers gave T.Q.D one to grow on and then some. "Taketh Away" suggests to me that he took away some good advice from this and other reviews. Songs like "Insomnia" don't seem muddled or unfocused - he's got a very good handle on the things which cause sleepless nights. Salt Lake City's own Vividend produced the track, and both the beats and rhymes are harrowing. You get the sense a long night of tossing on the pillow was the perfect inspiration. Despite being 11 tracks in length, "Taketh Away" flies by fairly fast, clocking in at just one second over 32 minutes. This is another factoid that suggests T.Q.D took the idea of being "focused" to heart- he's not wasting any time on expressing what he needs to say with his rhymes."
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