Chief :: Shadows Collision :: Feelin' Music
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
""Shadows Collision" is my first exposure to Swiss beatmaker Chief, but it is by no means his first project. He's released several beat albums, produced tracks for Blu, Co$$, John Robinson, Kissey Asplund, Aloe Blacc, Dynas, Les Nubians, Just Brea, Sene, and Abstract Rude, and released an album with Canadian rapper Moka Only. "Shadows Collision" collect three digital EPs into one vinyl or digital collection. This album is also my introduction to Swiss hip-hop. In some respects, Switzerland gets a bad rap. As Orson Welles' character said in "The Third Man," " In Switzerland they had brotherly love. They had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." Can a country that is most notable for its breathtaking natural beauty, cheese, and banking produce convincing hip-hop? Chief makes the case for Swiss hip-hop over 22 tracks. The eight songs of Chapter 1 all straddle the line between hip-hop and electronic music. Chief has some of Madlib's glitchy funkiness, combined with J Dilla's crisp drums and sample-flipping skills. This is combined with a heavy electronica influence. The end result resembles the spacy funk of Flying Lotus, complete with slightly off-kilter beats. He also throws in some bass wobbles for good measure. Chapter 2 continues on the same trajectory, but smooths things out on a soulful tip. It includes collaborations with Dehab, Ghostap, and Flex Fab, and sees Chief incorporating neo soul and bossa nova elements into his musical stew. The similarities to Flying Lotus are even more pronounced."
D-Priest :: Words As Weapons :: Inarhyme Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"I'm honestly unsure what "new neo-rap soul" is. "Neo" means new to begin with so at best that description is redundant, but nonetheless it's applied to D-Priest in the press kit for "Words As Weapons." For what it's worth though the album also features saxophonist Dane Bays, so at least the "soul" part could be applied to him. That leaves D-Priest as the neo-rapper though, and the "new" may be that he left a jazz ensemble called American Music Project to go out on the solo tip. For better or worse using the name Priest and a title like "Words As Weapons" evokes images of Killah Priest, and for this writer at least it created expectations of a mystical, biblical, epic lyrical experience. At the least I expected that by working with an alto saxophonist to the degree he'd be credited by name on the album cover would results in some jazzy freshness without Fresh Prince or a DJ. Early on in the song "Fever" I couldn't find what I was looking for, so I'll take a tip from the press kit and check out the "hard hitting jam" called "They Say" to see what's up.To call what D-Priest does on this song "rapping" would be incorrect. It's actually more akin to a Saul Williams album. D-Priest has a point he wants to make, and it more or less rhymes most of the time, but he doesn't really have what any one could really call flow. He's reading poetry to a hip-hop beat, a fairly unimpressive one in fact, and the saxophone playing in the background is really the highlight. In the course of his diatribe D-Priest does make a few worthwhile points about the commercialized side of rap today including the statement "Who's to blame? The listeners or the industry?" That's worth pondering for a bit, but grandoise statements like "I come back and part the Sea like Moses, to free all my real emcees with focus" is as close as D-Priest gets to Killah Priest on this song or any other."
Dubb Sicks :: Beauty From Without :: Backyard Recordings
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Dubb Sicks is a self-described "Odessa legend and Austin rap veteran" who has had two previous albums reviewed on this website: "Mind in the Gutter" in 2008 and "Lifestyles of the Sick and Fameless" in 2010. The former got surprisingly high marks for a newcomer, the latter leveled his average a bit but still got a positive write-up from Susan Kim. "(His) skills are unquestionable as it is clear his loyalty to his music and hometown are completely genuine and unsurpassed." So if you don't know anything else about Dubb Sicks before starting this review know this - he's Texas to the core and proud as hell to represent Odessa and Austin in the world of hip-hop. Most of the Dubb Sicks videos you can find on YouTube feature him taking part in the Texas Battle League, but on "Beauty From Without" he's not throwing down challenges or calling out other emcees. The ten songs and 37 minutes of this album could be subtitled "The Further Adventures of Dubb Sicks," because the focus on his album is largely to narrate his own adventures in the first person. While some rappers try to keep a healthy distance between what they rap and claiming they actually do it, Dubb leaves the distinct impression each song is a personal experience he chooses to share with the listener via his rhymes, such as the song "Where Were You the Night 6th St. Blacked Out". Von Smear's production brings an electricity to Dubb's blackout flow on the track that makes the two feel tailor made for each other. Dubb benefits from above average production throughout this short album, from the horrorcore meets dubstep vibe for "Freedom From a Shotgun Blast" to the laid back country feel of "Head in the Hoopty" and eerily Just Blaze-esque sound of "Searching For Greatness," though it's S. Killz who laces the beat along with 2 more of the album's final 4. Among them is the album's current single "I'm Gowne" featuring Cory Kendrix and Rittz."
Marco Polo :: Marco Polo Presents: Per La Mia Gente/For My People :: Macro Beats
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"Canadian hip-hop producer Marco Polo picked a delicate artistic alias. It's not entirely easy to make a name for yourself when you borrow it from a famous historic figure. The real Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant who in the 13th century at age 17 embarked on an eastward journey he returned from 24 years later and whose travel memoirs, recorded in Genovese captivity, would shape Europe's perception of Central Asia and China for centuries. Our Marco Polo, born Marco Bruno, is somewhat of a traveler as well. Early in his career he relocated from Toronto to New York, which led to extended collaborations with underground representatives Pumpkinhead, Torae and Ruste Juxx, individual tracks for some of the East Coast's finest, and last but not least two albums hosted by himself, "Port Authority" and "The Stupendous Adventures of Marco Polo!" Marco Polo's latest adventure takes place in the home of his ancestors, Italy. "Per La Mia Gente/For My People" is a collaboration EP with Italian MC's Bassi Maestro and Ghemon. Bassi Maestro is one of the most active hip-hop musicians in his country, an accomplished producer himself who even had an uncredited beat on Rakim's most recent album. Ghemon (AKA Gilmar) doesn't have the same standing but released three albums so far, his '07 debut featuring a beat by Marco Polo. After Bassi conversed with the Canadian producer, it was the latter's idea to involve Ghemon, and together they came up with 7 tracks of Bassi and Ghemon (who have joined forces before) rhyming over Marco's beats."
Sunset Terr :: Sunrize :: Nightbreed Entertainment
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"It took them three years to do it, but Sunsett Terr said their debut was "A Prelude" to things to come, and "Sunrize" delivers on that promise in a BIG way. Quite frankly I was intimidated by the time I was done ripping this album for review - TWO discs, 29 songs and nearly two hours of music in total. My fears were somewhat calmed reading Sirota's review though with comments like these: "The album does not hide the group's camaraderie; they revel in their enjoyment of hip-hop; they laugh out loud at each other's bad puns." If I'm going to sit through two hours of one group, it at least helps to know that their previous effort showed they tend to work well together. "Archways" eases my concerns more, kicking off the album with a mellow understated instrumental by Tilden Dexter, working in pleasant jazz notes and sax riffs. The beats are paired with refreshing lines like "no need to blind you with ice with lyrics this nice." The second verse is a little awkward, but it's that "on beat, off beat" Masta Ace style of rapping, so even when it seems to be falling apart it's really not. The group's members (LK, Dexter and Jay Biggz) seem well grounded and humble, noting that "Even Tony Starks was an alcoholic Iron Man," an allusion to the fact that any man or woman you view as a hero in or outside of hip-hop is flawed. (Even this line is flawed, since there's actually no S at the end of Stark's name. That's an invention of Ghostface Killah.) Through the massive "Sunrize" album the Washington D.C. group gives off a jazzy, Digable Planets like vibe - something they even reference in the song "Jazz Town" with the line "It's the +Rebirth of Slick+ and we +Cool Like Dat+." As noted in their previous review, Sunset Terr believe in presenting a positive vibe and message in their music, to the point that there's no parental advisory sticker and no need for one. I can't imagine any way throwing out curse words would enhance the slow bopping "King Tut" for example, complete with their "so cornball they're charming" punchlines like "put me on a bag of cheese, call me Chester." There's a feel of Egyptology to the song on the whole not seen prominently in rap since the early 1990's - something I wouldn't mind making a comeback - and the Flavor Flav and James Brown samples only enhance the feeling."
The Sureshot Symphony Solution :: Elegant Aggression :: Nature Sounds
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Sporting a suit, tie and white gloves fit for conducting a symphony and a burly beard and mustache befitting Movember, DJ Sureshot stands defiantly on the cover of "Elegant Aggression." Without uttering a word, his eyes seem to scream "AND WHAT?!" He looks like he might slam a sousaphone on your head if you cross him. He personifies not only the title of his new album but the concept behind it as well, something his one sheet refers to as "blending hard-hitting hip hop beats seemlessly with lush live jazz-rock instrumentation." Sureshot is applying lessons learned from his acid jazz debut as one half of the Sharpshooters debut in the 1990's, plus fifteen years of experience that followed, into an album that seems poised to turn hip-hop on its ear. It is perhaps befitting then that Sureshot hails from Seattle - a place that seems to turn the musical world upside down every now and then. He teams with Moeses Soulright to "Hate the Real" with a passion. His life may be low enough to pen bars about his frustration, but Sureshot's symphonic sounds lift him up and make it beautiful, all while he's "sippin on this rum and Coke explaining you the way I feel." Sureshot works with him again on the track "Tell Me What You See" and it's a good pairing both times - a whole album between them would not be unwarranted. Sureshot is all over the map with his collaborations though, and for the most part they don't get more mainstream than Ohmega Watts on "Half Man, Half Bionic." Actually I'm ribbing you dear reader, because Ohmega Watts isn't mainstream at ALL. He's further underground than a genetically enhanced mutant mole. "
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