Monday April 23, 2018

The (W)rap Up for 2012 - April [2 of 2]
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 5:35PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

E-40 :: The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 2 :: Heavy on the Grind/EMI Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 2]
"Picking up where we left off last week on the first chapter of "Block Brochure," we're back one mo' gen to bring you a review of "Welcome to the Soul 2." Coincidentally, just like the opening of this trilogy, Earl Stevens is dropping street knowledge on the very first track. "I'm Laced" would on casual observation be a braggadocious track, and if all you wrote down was the hook, you'd draw the same conclusion - 40 is a California heavyweight. It doesn't matter if Earl has ever held a Harvard degree when he's already got a ghetto Ph.D, and he's not selfish about his street smarts. You don't have to be in search of an education when you ride through "The Soil" though, because there's plenty of entertainment in the pages of his lesson book. The pounding beat of the aptly named Chris 'THX' Goodman makes "On the Case" a dramatic win - and it even has some solid economic advice for tough times. Speaking of entertainment, I might be the only reviewer left in the world who hasn't shit on T-Pain yet, and I'm not about to on "Tryna Get It" either. As an added bonus, he produced the beat. As an even MORE added bonus, he and Twista try to one up each other on quick flipping their raps. "The Other Day Go" is a throwback to 1990's Cali hardcore with rhymes by Celly Cel and Spice 1, and the Trend produced "Function" is all the way new school with YG, IAmSu and Problem. ech N9ne fans are going to be happy with the second edition of the trilogy, as he shows up twice on "Scorpio" and "Zombie." For the most part though, Earl is still keeping his guest appearances hella local, which is thematically fine and not ear displeasing in any way. "

Giano :: B Sides and Remixes Volume 2 :: PNG Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[B Sides and Remixes Volume 2]

"Giano is a Virginia rapper who has been spitting righteous rhymes for over a decade. This album collects remixes from his 2009 album "Beautiful World" as well as some tracks that didn't make it on that album. Giano is both a devout Christian and a devout hip-hop head, and he straddles the line between the two in his music. It's not totally accurate or fair to classify his music as Christian rap. True, he does have several songs that directly address his faith, but the majority of the music on "B Sides" deals with how his faith informs his worldview. Giano doesn't assume he has all the answers. His faith seems pose as many questions as answers.

Giano is a talented rapper. He's been compared to Lupe Fiasco and Talib Kweli because of his intricate rhymes. The diverse production is handled by Giano, Symbolyc One, Sinuous, The Cratez, Ben B, and Major. "Salute" and "In Hindsight" are ambient rock similar to the xx; "Fantastic" is club rap complete with snapping snares and whistling synths; "Faux Interlude" is backpack rap with thwapping drums and horn stabs. The remix of "Society Conscience" adds strings and piano to the mix. "We Need"and "Prelude to A Love Song" go the R&B route, and "Spirit Vs. Flesh" mix of live instruments is reminiscent of the Roots. Giano is accompanied on the mic by Sivion, Sinuous, BenEvol and Eric Cross. BenEvol and Eric Cross offer pretty straightforward Christian rap on "No More," while Sivion and Sinuous hold their own with Giano on "Spirit Vs. Flesh" and "Prelude to A Love Song."

Mickey Avalon :: Loaded :: Suburban Noize Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"I want to throw out a shout to Mickey Avalon right at the start for doing an interview for RapReviews with Adam B. He could just as easily have told us where to go given this site absolutely SAVAGED his self-titled debut. Now I'm not telling you to read our last review - that's up to you - but when Arthur Gailes described him as having only "the slightest hint of personality" and "among the worst production ever put on record" his hip-hop career was to me an open and shut case. It was the fact he was open-minded enough to talk to us after such a scathing critique that in turn made me open-minded enough to give his new album a spin. Other factors working in his favor: 1.) five years is a long enough time for even someone wretched to become a decent artist and 2.) SubNoize probably wouldn't sign someone to a deal they think would put out an unlistenable album. Let's start with the first single off "Loaded" then entitled "More Junk." Now the snarky among the readership might find this lyricism unimpressive, and I'm not here to impress upon you that Avalon has suddenly turned into Shakespeare. What I do find though is that the press release for his album was entirely accurate about this song - it has both "sleek electro-synth beats" and "playfully spit" rhymes. This is not the music of a revolution, and Avalon is certainly not part of the 99%. The theme of "Loaded" is the 1%. I'm not sure if Avalon was living this lifestyle before he became (in)famous, but I'd bet that an Interscope contract and touring with the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers led to songs like "Drugs." "

Mike G :: ALI :: Odd Future
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"While reviewing "The OF Tape Vol. 2," one of the members who immediately caught my ear was Mike G. His role in the Odd Future crew isn't as prominent as founder Tyler, the Creator or his long time running mate Hodgy Beats, which may be a reflection of the fact he was "a fan who was invited to join the group" - or so says Wikipedia. I tend to not trust anything written there further than the next edit, which is always one iota of one mouse click away. It IS true though that when you listen to the original "Odd Future" tape he's not in the mix, and that since 2009 when he joined he's gradually been featured more and more. The first step in that process was the "ALI" album produced by Syd tha Kid, which until recently was still available from Odd Future's tumblr. Since MegaUpload got shut down though, you'll have to look elsewhere around the internet to find it. The first thing to know about "ALI" is that cameo appearances are all Odd Future. Tyler, the Creator appears on "Timeless," one of this short album's most interesting songs. The background music, much like the crew themselves, is a little unconventional and weird. It's built over a loop of birds chirping somewhere in nature, and the drumbeat sounds like someone tapping silverware on pots and pans. The synthesizer sounds Sydney provides hold this eclectic mix together, and Mike G shows off his lyrical writing ability, which even at this prototype stage of his career shows a more focused thought pattern than some of his Golf Wang compadres. "


[Attractive Sin]Del the Funky Homosapien & Parallel Thought :: Attractive Sin
Parallel Thought Ltd./Hieroglyphics

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"If I could get away with a two sentence review, this would be the first one. The other one would be "This is a brilliant album - go out and buy it when it drops on June 19th." No? That won't cut it? Well fuck it then. Let me start out by pointing out this is the lineal successor to the "Parallel Uni-Verses" album from 2009, although this time Del is not collaborating with Tame One. That's not due to any animosity or ill will that I'm aware of, but if you can attribute it to anything it's that both artists have multiple irons in the fire right now. Del could even wind up dropping a sequel to "Deltron 3030" album before this one sees an official release. The album I have now sounds done though, and there aren't even any "for promotional use only" drops on it. (Please don't ask me to rip you a copy though; it's watermarked, and I wouldn't anyway.) "Attractive Sin" is billed by the one-sheet that came with the promo as "legendary West Coast style" meets "Parallel Thought's East Coast production." That's accurate, but grossly understates the credentials of both artists involved. P Thought is fairly slept on in the industry today - he may not have the big name of Statik Selektah, Alchemist or Primo, but he's laced beats for some of the most lyrically adept cats in the game. That includes the aforementioned Tame, MF DOOM and C-Rayz Walz just to name a few. And as the producer of record for "Parallel Uni-Verses," it should already be clear what he's capable of even if you don't know his name - his beats would get 4 out of 5 mics in The Source (even back when that hailed a hip-hop classic). "

Various Artists :: Ragga Ragga Ragga 2012 :: VP Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Ragga Ragga Ragga 2012]
"As any North American who has ever smoked a joint or gone to high school or college knows, 420 is code for smoking pot. It's origins are hazy and unclear, not suprising since it came from a bunch of stoners. Some people claim it is for police code for marijuana posession, but it isn't. Supposedly it comes from a group of San Rafael High kids who used to meet to get stoned at 4:20pm every day, which is just as likely an explanation as any other. Whatever the origins, 4:20 PM on April 20th is basically stoner's St. Patrick Day. This past Friday afternoon marked the twentieth day of the fourth month, and tens of thousands of young people flocked to San Francisco's Haight Ashbury to hang out on Hippie Hill, spark a bowl, and enjoy getting nicely toasted with a group of like-minded pot enthusiasts. There are many songs about getting high, and the latest "Ragga Ragga Ragga" compilation has one of the best ones. British dancehall artist Gappy Ranks celebrates the sweet leaf on "Da Herbs Deh." Producer Derrick "Wundah" Cyrus takes the concept of "less is more" to the extreme, fashioning a beat out of some snare hits interspersed with a few tom hits and handclaps. Over this skeletal framework Ranks supplies the melody with his sing/chant as he kills the beat extolling the many wonders of the herb. It's ragga stripped down to its most essential elements, with lyrics that would make any stoner proud. "

Dewey Binns X medafORACLE :: Hotel Nompton :: Bandcamp
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Hotel Nompton]
""Make room!" Tha Alkaholiks brazenly demanded on their 1993 debut single. medafORACLE and Dewey Binns need some room as well, but as the opener of their freEP "Hotel Nompton," "Room to Rock" indicates, they will absolutely settle for a hotel room. The five tracks were recorded in a hotel in Norman, OK over just a weekend. What business did they have there, you ask? Since Norman is the home of the University of Oklahoma, there's some probability they were there to entertain the college crowd. On "Room to Rock" we catch ORACLE right after the show pushing CDs and longing for "a room with a lotta room cause I need to stretch out / and it'll be a couple of days before I check out." Meanwhile Binns is still alert enough to take precautions for life on the road. After three tracks it seems that Dewey Binns and medafORACLE have worn the 'hotel' concept out. On "Robert Downey Jr." they seek inspiration from one of Hollywood's bad boys while "Street Conscious" looks at the urban hustle and bustle through the musical lens of soul."

D-Tension :: Wack Music For Dope People :: CommonWealth Records
as reviewed by Aaron Boyce

[Wack Music For Dope People]
"When I was compiling my 2011 round-up in December I found it a lot more difficult narrowing my initial list of twenty or so albums down to the required ten that I viewed as the best releases of the past twelve months. Names were added and then crossed out and then added again before I finally settled on the ten that I felt best reflected my year in hip-hop. Some of these albums found their place due to the MC's spitting pure fire (Apathy, Random Axe) while others had a whole LP's worth of beats that knocked hard (Doppelgangaz, Mister Jason). However the first album that I scribbled down on my list made it for an entirely different reason. Entertainment. As a producer, D-Tension should need no introduction. A well-known and respected name behind the boards in the indie rap scene, Mr Perez has served up his own unique brand of heat for a seemingly endless list of underground favourites. Slug, Esoteric, Termanology, Apathy, Vinnie Paz, Thirstin Howl III, Mr Lif, Encore and Akrobatik are among the 'dope people' that have showcased their talents over D-Tension's own special brand of 'wack music'. While D has never been frightened to pick up the microphone and craft a few songs of his own, a twenty track album where guest lyricists are kept to a bare minimum is quite a difficult project to undertake and execute. "

E-40 :: The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 3 :: Heavy on the Grind/EMI Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 3]
"Multi-generational rap star E-40 released three separate albums on March 26, 2012. Depending on what versions you buy, that's anywhere from 54-60 new songs if you copped all three at once. My copies of each album have had 18 songs, so I can't speak on the bonus tracks, but to be honest I'm not sad about it. There's already over an hour's worth of music on each album without the extras, so it's not as though Earl Stevens was scrimping on the content. It's not unprecedented for E-40 to be heavyweight, but he usually spreads out the girth over weeks or months. This time he dropped the whole load in one shot, like it or not. For the most part I like it, and "Soil 3" contains some of the best material out of the entire set. It also contains the songs with the most crossover potential. "What You Smoking On" is a California super-collaboration, linking Vallejo to Long Beach as Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound get down over a very "Chronic 2001" style beat complete with crooning by Kokane. Speaking of G-Funk, you can feel the smoky sound bubbling up through the waters of the Warren G produced "What Happened to Them Days" featuring J Banks. I called E-40 "multi-generational" in the first paragraph in a none-too-subtle attempt to explain how long he's been in the rap game, but as it turns out E-40 may not be happy about being around that long. He's pining for a time when things seemed less technological and complicated."

Kool Rock Jay and the DJ Slice :: Tales From the Dope Side :: Jive Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Tales From the Dope Side]
"By 1990 Jive was a brand a rap fan could trust, the label's roster including Whodini, Kool Moe Dee, Boogie Down Productions, Schoolly D - and Too $hort. The latter comes invariably to mind when listening to Kool Rock Jay, and that's without getting treated to any 'freaky tales' whatsoever. Besides thanking the City of Oakland in the liner notes of "Tales From the Dope Side," Kool Rock Jay explicitly says that he's from "the Oakland town" and refers to Too $hort as his partner. Oakland promoter Lionel Bea (Bay Area Productions), who booked $hort's early gigs, even gets an executive producer credit. However, both the New York Times and Bay Area journalist Davey D located the duo in Fresno. There is definitely a connection to Fresno as not only the album was partially recorded there, but the two were part of electro outfit Matrix, who were signed to Fresno-based Jam City Records (which was also in some fashion involved in "Tales From the Dope Side"). Wherever they may have been originally from, Kool Rock Jay and DJ Slice sealed their partnership as early as 1986 with the single "Slice it Up" b/w "Check it Out." After the stint with Matrix they were back to a duo, putting out a second single, "It's About Time," in '88 independently before landing the deal with Jive and releasing the lead single "Notorious" the next year. "

The Liquid Crystal Project :: LCP 3 :: Nature Sounds/Polar Entertainment/Groove Attack
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[LCP 3]
"And here we are, almost 20 years and change later, and it's clear somebody is just as nostalgic for "In the Ghetto" as I am - and that would be acclaimed hip-hop producer J Rawls. He's on some Jazz-Hop shit these days, and I added the capitalization to emphasize what "LCP 3" is not. See, this is not hip-hop. Rakim isn't going to bust a rhyme on "Ghetto," but you wouldn't be surprised if he did. You'd think you were listening to a jazzified remix of a hip-hop classic, and in some respects that's exactly what it is - sans vocals. I'm getting ahead of myself though, so let me take you on a journey out of triple stage darkness into the light. Rawls conceived of The Liquid Crystal Project as a way to move further beyond what either hip-hop or jazz is, two arts that he very much loves and respects, which in turn have had a mostly respectful but occasionally contentious relationship with each other. Artists like the late great Keith Elam have always tried to bring them closer together, while artists like the cranky bastard Wynton Marsalis have always tried to push them further apart. LCP doesn't have to worry about declaring allegiance to either camp, because it's something outside of both. That leaves both the listener and the label searching, searching, searching for new definitions. Some might call this Neo-Soul. Some might call it Fusion Jazz. I think K-Murdock might even call it Progressive. I like the term Jazz-Hop though, because it embodies what the founding elements of the sound are, yet both adds something to jazz it doesn't normally have and changes the definition of hip-hop in a way that frees it from the construction of being Rap."

Shottie & TeV95 :: Delorean :: 95 Labs
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"A couple of years ago I marveled at the unapologetic sample-jacking of TeV95 on the aptly titled "Crime Loops," his middle finger to copyright law in a free download form. TeV95 is not a rebel without a cause though - he believes in the right to be artistic, but he's also producing beats worth listening to. To that end we return a couple of years later with "Delorean," finding the Brooklyn producer pairing with an up-and-coming Miami emcee. I know how that sounds, especially given that the title of the album references an era of cocaine-laden automotive excess, but Shottie is no Floridian rapper living a V.I.P. lifestyle or bragging about moving (his) weight (ungh). In fact even though Ras Kass is a rap legend and Shottie is a new jack, they share a track called "Skyrider" where he doesn't get badly sunned. I dare say his shine's bright. That's one of the only three guest features on "Delorean" - another being Itagui on "Hollywood," a song which starts out by openly mocking Rick Ross. TeV95 takes the beat on this one from Brooklyn all the way to Brixton, sporting an Afro-Carribean sound and some appropriate chatta to go with it. The range of sounds that TeV can supply his rap protege with is infinitely diverse. "Baby Baby" sounds like Biggie literally, riding a soul funk backing which could only have come from the 1970's or early 80's. "

Michael Watts presents Swishahouse :: The Day Hell Broke Loose :: Swishahouse Entertainment
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Matt Jost

[The Day Hell Broke Loose]
"In 1999 Swishahouse was still bubbling deep in the underground from a national perspective but a big step towards greater recognition was made with the first proper retail release whose title already suggested a significant event taking place - "The Day Hell Broke Loose." Conceived around 1997, Swishahouse (or Swisha House) began as a platform for DJ's and MC's from Houston's Northside, modeled after the support system DJ Screw had established for the Southside in the first half of the decade. DJ's Michael Watts and Ron C released a slew of mixtapes/CDs and began to feature local rappers on them, mainly in Screw's trademark 'screwed and chopped' fashion. "The Day Hell Broke Loose" played at regular speed but featured many of the rappers that had made a name for themselves with tape appearances. A number of them originated from the Acres Home area (Big Pic, Lil' Mario, PJ, Sabwarfare, 50/50 Twin, J-Dawg) and some were still in their teens, notably the CD's forerunners Lil' Mario and Slim Thug. Production was handled by Randy 'Bigg Tyme' Jefferson, who had previously worked with another Northside crew, Trinity Garden Cartel, and Wreckshop Records producers Double D and Noke D a/k/a Platinum Soul. Guests were few and far between (South Park Mexican, C-Note, Billy Cook). The prominently featured Archie Lee had been heard alongside Lil' Keke before, but the other vocalists more or less made their official entry into the music business with "The Day Hell Broke Loose." "

Richard Wright :: Open Minded :: Irregular Instrumentals
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[Open Minded]
"Richard Wright feels that there are too many closed-minded individuals. Or at least that's what he suggests with his debut solo album "Open Minded," a title that refers to "the willingness to accept what is new or different than what you may be used to," according to his Bandcamp page. With open-mindedness as the loose concept behind the release, I anticipated that Wright and J. Bizness, who is also signed to the Irregular Instrumentals label and handles the majority of the album's production, would stretch the boundaries of the genre and bring something offbeat and fresh to the table. My initial expectations only grew after doing some quick background research on Wright and discovering that he listed Coldplay, John Lennon, and Nirvana as some of his musical influences, along with Jay-Z, Andre 3000, Kanye West, and others. With this in mind, I was excited to see what the up-and-coming Los Angeles native had to offer in terms of musical and lyrical creativity. The album starts out on the right foot with the intro track "Open Minded," which has some West-Coast bounce to it with a deep rolling bassline, a heavy drum loop, and brassy synths. Wright's smooth, almost carefree delivery blends with the smooth feel of the track, and the good vibes continue next on "Get Away," with soft piano keys setting the mood. The album shifts 180 degrees, though, on the next song, "DuckTale $$$," with a much more aggressive beat driven by a punchy acoustic guitar pluck and a thumping bassline."

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