Maino :: The Day After Tomorrow
Author: Matthew 'Matt G' Gutwillig
"As far as backstories go in hip-hop, Jermaine Coleman's past has to be one of the most fascinating. The Brooklyn-bred emcee, b/k/a Maino, represents the epitome of an underdog after spending 10 years behind bars, while later struggling as an independent rapper and eventually facing label troubles when he was signed to Universal Records. After going through so much drama, Maino's hustle finally paid off with his 2009 Atlantic Records debut "If Tomorrow Comes..." and his single "All The Above" achieving platinum status. Three years later, he is back with his second studio album "The Day After Tomorrow" with hopes of continuing his improbable success, while trying to come to grips with his newfound fame. Much like the Brooklyn native's previous album, the narrative of "The Day After Tomorrow" is highly effective. Even though you may not like all 16 tracks on this album, every song flows in sync with the next one. From the "Intro," Maino admits that although he is lucky to be successful, he still hasn't found the true happiness he's been seeking out of life. The following track "Never Gon' Stop," illustrates Maino's consciousness as he is haunted that many of his comrades are dead or in jail, while feeling guilty about his lifestyle of excessive spending, partying, and womanizing. The melancholy, tinkling keys combined with melodic synths make this one of the best tracks on the album. "
Baron Von Alias & MistaBreeze :: Brace for the Impact EP :: Bandcamp.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"It's not the easiest task in the world for a U.K. rapper to develop a reputation in the U.S., but Baron Von Alias has succeeded beyond even his own expectations. Starting with "Timepiece" in 2009 and continuing on collaborations with Arhat and MistaBreeze, he's become known for his strong flow and intentionally cheesy fake mustache. By steadily introducing new material through his personal Bandcamp site he's stayed on the minds of hip-hop heads. In fact this latest release "Brace for the Impact" is free on Bandcamp for EXACTLY one week, so if you want to download it now would be a good time. Most of Baron's tracks to date have had what I would call a "traditional" hip-hop presentation, like one of my personal favorites - "Outside In" from "The Great & The Magnificent."In reviewing that album staffer Emanuel Wallace said something unintentionally prophetic about Baron's future work. In describing the song "Can't Get Enough" he notes "it may do well in the dance clubs, but it seems to be somewhat out of place on this album." Much like everyone's favorite hip-hop supervillain MF Doom, when you wear a disguise for long enough you can get away with transforming yourself into any alternate hip-hop identity or persona you see fit. (Come to think of it Baron does remind me of a cartoon villain - the infamous Snidely Whiplash.) In this case Baron took the "dance club" idea seriously, so "Brace for the Impact" ranks highly among apropos album titles. Putting aside the 47 second title track, which serves as an introduction and nothing more, this ENTIRE EP sounds as though it were made for an energetic late night discothèque. "
Burial :: Kindred EP :: Hyperdub
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"British dubstep producer Burial is a reclusive figure who is as mysterious as the music he makes. His identity was unknown until recently (Londoner William Bevan, if Wikipedia can be trusted), and the only information anyone had about him was the trail of singles and albums that he left behind. "Kindred" dropped unannounced earlier this year, adding another piece to the Burial puzzle. One way to describe Burial is that he is the anti-Skrillex. Where Skrillex is loud, bombastic, and simple, Burial is subdued, intricate, and introverted. He is Shabazz Palaces to Skrillex's Waka Flocka Flame. I don't know how often he plays out, but I'm willing to bet that Burial doesn't have 10,000 chemically enhanced kids jumping in unison at his shows, a common sight at a Skrillex set. Burial makes headphone music, the kind of stuff you listen to alone after a long night. "Kindred" starts off with the cracks and pops of a record. A drumbeat starts in, playing the usual off-kilter dubstep beat. Burial then starts adding elements as deliberately and sparingly as a four-star chef creating his latest masterpiece. There's a keyboard swell here, a pitch shift there, and finally the vocals come in. One of Burial's trademarks are the filtered vocals that feature heavily in his songs. They are so processed that you can only make out some of the words, and they sound ghostly and haunted. "
Andy Kayes :: Alone in Numbers :: AK Production
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"I had a diverting virtual encounter with the contemporary UK hip-hop scene the other day when I watched a graffiti-themed video for the song "Strength in Numbers" by DJ Tricksta featuring nine rappers gathering under the banner of UK hip-hop (notably twenty years after Killa Instinct's "Un-United Kingdom"). At first glance, Andy Kayes would fit into the line-up, another rapper with a British accent striving for recognition for himself and his homeland hip-hop. Yet, as the title of his first full-length "Alone in Numbers" indicates, Andy Kayes follows his own path. One of the reasons for that would surely be that he's lived both in London, England and Lyon, France. In fact in terms of his career so far, the rapper seems more rooted in the French scene, having released an EP as Manimal Instinct ("Retour Aux Sources/Back to the Primitive") in '06 and one under his current moniker ("Invisible") in '09 there. From the look of things, Andy Kayes now hopes his music crosses national borders and reaches an international audience accustomed to the English language because "Alone in Numbers" contains no French. Kayes himself is willing and able to hit the trail, as evidenced by a series of promotional videos entitled 'J'irai rapper chez vous' ('I'll rap at your home'), where he visits local beat- and wordsmiths in Lyon, Paris and Berlin. Home is a deeper issue to Andy Kayes, though."
mc chris :: Race Wars :: mc chris LLC
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"mc chris has been a warrior for nerdy rap fans since the early 2000's - and "warrior needs food badly." That's how he caught my attention back in the day - there weren't many rappers flowing to the sounds of Gauntlet or rapping about Boba Fett from Star Wars driving around the galaxy in a drop-top convertible. He didn't just drop the capitalization of his name, he dropped all the stereotypes of what a rap artist is supposed to be: tough, streetwise, aggressive, and cutting edge cool. While his fan base has grown considerably since those early days, thanks in no small part to exposure on [adult swim], his "Race Wars" shows he's staying true to his dorky roots. "Nerd Cave" is the quintessential hip-to-be-square anthem, taking the man cave concept to its nerdiest extreme, leaving a trail of candy bar wrappers and empty bags of weed everywhere in the process. Like most mc chris albums "Race Wars" appears to be self-produced, though a lack of liner notes in the download version hamper my ability to confirm this fact. From what I understand though this version may in some respects be preferable though, because CD versions of "Race Wars" did not have any track listing or song names, whereas this does. While some of his songs go over the heads of hardcore rap fans, even his most ardent critics would have to admit an entire verse about the stars of "Reservoir Dogs" is pretty fucking cool. In fact the ironic truth about mc chris in this decade is that being nerdy has actually achieved a cool it never had when I was growing up. "
Paradox :: Mending :: Phatmass Records
as reviewed by Mike Baber
"Until two weeks ago, my familiarity with Christian hip-hop was nearly nonexistent, having never even listened to an album all the way through. After reviewing CY's "High Wire Act," though, I found myself more open to exploring the subgenre, and when I received the submission of "Mending," a collaborative effort between emcee Paradox and producer DJ Sean P, I was intrigued to hear another album in its entirety. And after doing some quick background research, it became clear that Paradox was not your average emcee, as the high-school teacher and father of two made his music in part to set an example for his kids and his students. I was interested, then, to see how his unique perspective would influence his music, as well as how much of a role his religion would play in his lyrics. The first thing I noticed after checking out the track listing, though, was that there were a number of guest appearances to complement Paradox's rhymes, with eight of the twelve tracks featuring other artists, as well. Going into "Mending," I wondered whether this would give the album a disjointed feel, as it can sometimes be difficult for a single producer to try and tailor his production to accommodate the lyrical styles of so many emcees. What's more, the opening track, "Paradox X DJ Sean P," made me question both the production and the lyricism. Soulful trumpets and horns in the beginning of the song give way to a slightly irritating instrumental that grows harsher on the ears as it continues. "
ScHoolboy Q :: Habits & Contradictions :: Top Dawg/Interscope Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Let me introduce you to Quincy Matthew Hanley, better known as ScHoolboy Q. (The odd capitalization is in that first sentence is his preferred spelling, but a lowercased ScHoolboy Q also appears to be acceptable.) He's an army brat who was born in Frankfurt, Germany who eventually landed in Los Angeles and wound up a 52 Hoover Crip by his teens. Despite his gang-banging background, Q has matured into a self-described eclectic "Black Hippy" rap artist, and his GANG these days consists of Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar. That's how I initially became aware of Q, as he and Lamar guest on each other's projects as much or more than Drake and Lil Wayne. If you assume an artist with as much buzz as Q would have nothing but big names producing his album, you guessed wrong. He does have one (dope) track from The Alchemist called "My Homie" and one from Lex Luger featuring Curren$y titled "Grooveline Pt. 1" but that's it. Many of the songs come from his friends in Digi+Phonics, including the aforementioned Dave Free along with Sounwave, Willie B and Tae Beast. They can go from menacing melodies like "Raymond 1969" to mellow bass reverberating beats like "There He Go" in a heartbeat. The coolest of all their tracks may be "Gangsta In Designer (No Concept)," which sounds exactly like the parenthesis - just everybody hanging out in the studio until they came up with a cool tune. That's the strength and weakness of Q actually. He professes to have not written his first verse until he was 16 and to not have taken his rap career seriously until being arrested at 21, but he's got a better sense of breath control and diction on the mic than many of his more experienced contemporaries."
Shtar :: Infinity :: Shemspeed
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Jews have played an important role in hip-hop since day one. Jewish promoters, record executives, producers, journalists, and rappers helped make hip-hop what it is today. From Rick Rubin to the Beastie Boys to Drake, Jews and hip-hop go together like beer and hot dogs. Which brings us to "Infinity," the debut album by Israeli group Shtar. Not only are all five members Jewish, they sing and rap about their faith, even dropping some Hebrew rhymes. Shtar are probably best understood as an Israeli Roots. They have a drummer and bassist, giving their music an organic sound that can't be matched by a drum machine. Rapper Ori Murray shares the mic with singer Dan Issac, which adds a soulful element to their songs. Lyrically, they are all about their spirituality, their faith, and living righteously. In fact, with the lyrical content, the singing, and the live instrumentation, "Infinity" feels more like a soul album than a hip-hop album. It also falls in the same territory as Manu Chao's multi-enthic, multi-genre music. "Odecha" is Shtar at their best. It has a bluesy guitar riff coupled with banging drums. "Kel Adon" mixes elements of reggae and Middle Eastern music. They also experiment with folk, as on "Shir Hamaalos" and "Oseh." While I can appreciate the musicianship and sentiment behind these slower tracks, I didn't find them as interesting as Shtar's hip-hop songs."
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