If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Sadistik's "Flowers For My Father" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Sadistik :: Flowers For My Father
Fake Four Inc.
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Making personally introspective rap albums is a risky proposition for any hip-hop artist, but Sadistik never seems to make anything else. He's been compared to every one from Marshall Mathers to Slug from Atmosphere, but at least one writer thought he had more in common with Kristoff Krane. The one common thread weaving through all Sadistik albums and indeed write-ups about them are words like "dark" and "melancholy" to describe his music.I suppose it would be hard to argue "Flowers For My Father" is anything other than a perfect fit for that mold, particularly with self-evident song titles like "Russian Roulette" (featuring Cage) or "Song for the End of the World." Here's the tricky thing - Sadistik doesn't strike me as an overly morose person - and I mean that both as an artist and in my professional dealings with him. I don't picture him sitting around in a four-cornered room staring at candles, dark curtains blocking the sun, face painted like The Crow with a pentagram hanging from his neck. Even though he may put the "Sad" in Sadistik, and it's fair to acknowledge that this album is rooted in his father's death right after his first album release, the albums Sadistik releases seem to be a cathartic and thereapuetic exercise. If that exercise was strictly self-indulgent there would be no reason to continue this review, but songs like "Snow White" offer the listener more. Showing off his versatility as an emcee, Sadistik unleashes a rapid fire chorus between verses that even Twista would have to bow down and pay respect to. The song takes a drug user to task for a cocaine habit gone awry, and as you inspect each verse you wonder whether this is an ode to a friend or a firsthand narrative. Sadistik seems to have a better understanding of the highs and lows of doing a line than one could without personal experience as reference, and when he says "sleep back to back in the shape of a butterfly/another sign that it's time to tell my lover bye" you get the feeling Snow White is an addiction he can't quit."
Jesse Abraham :: I Am Water :: Fat Beats
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"There's a certain category of rappers that makes me wonder what their exact purpose is. I usually gravitate towards MC's with a distinct profile, peculiar angle, particular message, just something tangible that helps me understand why that person decided to get on the mic and demand my attention. There's an artistic and an economic side to having a purpose. If you're successful with something, few people will question the point of your endeavors. If you're unsuccessful, your mother won't be the only one asking when you're going to get a real job. Arguing from the side of art, rappers can always refer to the need for self-expression, which is fine, you just have to realize that you wanting to express yourself doesn't automatically compel me to witness it. Manhattan native and Brooklyn resident Jesse Abraham makes it easy with his latest release. For a worthy purpose, look no further than the good cause behind "I Am Water," as all of the artist's proceeds go to Charity Water, an organization that funds clean water projects in developing countries. But I wouldn't have been inspired to write the above introduction if my 'What's the purpose?' senses weren't twitching just a little bit in Jesse Abraham's case. In fact such questions may not be completely unfamiliar to Jesse himself. In "The Scene" he describes the bizarre situation when people attending a concert are so busy tweeting about it you wonder how they are able to catch what's going on. Puzzledly he observes, "You ignore me in person but you show me love on the internet." Clearly JA is an artist who wrestles with such issues. "I Ain't Shit - I'm the Shit" finds him torn between qualms and confidence. Another account of Jesse Abraham's rapper-meets-world experiences is "Back Off," where he answers the allegations he faces as a college graduate and Jewish New Yorker, rejecting the stereotypes and painting himself as an independent spirit. Not one to be sour-faced about it, he laces these tracks with humor and irony ("Blogs have red tape / 'You should sound like Blu's tape' / 'New York needs a Purple Tape'"), and gives the definite answer as to why he's rapping: "People ask me: 'Jesse, what are you tryina do with this music shit?' / Umm... I'm tryina make some music, shit." Well then, Jesse Abraham has been making music for some time, "I Am Water" being his third official album. In 2011 he was proclaimed Lyricist of the Year at the Underground Music Awards and in 2012 he had the support of accomplished producer !llmind, who provides five beats for the project."
Casey Veggies :: Life Changes :: DatPiff.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"It has to be a bitch to be Casey Veggies when half of the time people want to talk about how you USED to be in the Odd Future crew. Let's just put a nail in that coffin right now - he collaborated with them on their first release "The Odd Future Tape" and then branched out to do his own thing. No animosity, no ill-will, no shit went down - Veggies himself has described it this way: "I just had more of a vision for my own rap career. I wanted to do my own thing." To that end Casey Veggies has his own website, his own apparel line and a slew of self-released mixtapes over the last five years. "Life Changes" is the latest evolution of Veggies, a cohesive 13 song album showcasing both his personal and musical vision of hip-hop. Production comes from a wide variety of sources thoughout - The Futuristiks, Harry Fraud, Rob Holladay and Dom Kennedy just to name a few. Though technically anything you can download from DatPiff is a "free mixtape," this has a totally different feel from the average freebie. "Slick" is the best word to describe "Life Changes." Every song is professionally mastered and creates an atmospheric surrounding in your speakers or headphones. Vocal production changes in tracks like "Love = Hate, Ulterior Motives" emphasize this point - changing Veggies voice from an echoing studio to a subterranean cavern to match the change in the musical backdrop. Veggies has the artistic sense to not take himself overly seriously, letting himself sing-along with his background vocals on "These Days" and professing "As long as my fam straight, everything still okay/My favorite rapper's Kanye, she told me hers the same thing." Just admitting you're a fan of someone other than yourself is an ego blow to most emcees, but Veggies has a secure and self-confident flow. He reminds me of a young Common merged with a young Ice-T in terms of his intellect and swag, but his flow does at times echo Mr. West."
Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy :: Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury :: 4th and B'way/Island Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"I have a long and conflicted relationship with the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. I first encountered them in 1992 when they opened for Public Enemy at the Warfield in San Francisco. I had come to hip hop through punk rock, and was looking for rap as urban protest music. Public Enemy were my ideal as to what rap should be: righteously angry and calling out the injustices of the system. The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy seemed to embody these ideals. They also put on one hell of a stage show. Rapper Michael Franti was basketball-player tall, and had a commanding voice and presence. His co-conspirator Rono Tse played industrial instruments, grinding electric saws against metal to produce a shower of sparks. When Rono wasn't making his own version of a light show, he was dancing like a fiend. Opening for PE at their prime was no easy task, and the Disposable Heroes held their own. I immediately went and picked up their debut album, "Hiphoprisy Is the Greatest Luxury." This is in the days when CDs came in album-length packaging so that they would fit in LP bins, and I cut out the front of the cardboard packaging and put it in the cover of my binder, so that the image of Michael Franti's face with Rono taking a chainsaw to a tank in the background would stare at me while I was sitting in civics class. The Disposable Heroes seemed like the epitome of what I wanted hip-hop to be: they had innovative beats that built upon industrial music and their lyrics criticized homophobia, mass consumption, TV, and the war in Iraq. But as I listened to them, and as I got older, something changed. What had begun as a beautiful friendship disintegrated until I was not only soured on the group, I was soured on conscious hip-hop as a whole. It took me almost ten years to give conscious hip-hop another shot, and I've never listened to another Michael Franti project to this day. I saw a copy of "Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury" in the bargain bins at Amoeba a few weeks ago, and decided to revisit the album and re-examine my feelings for it."
J Dilla :: Music From the Lost Scrolls Vol. 1 :: Ruff Draft/Fat Beats
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"I'm torn. Every year around this time I reminisce over Dilla, given his life was snuffed too early in February of 2006. His ghost still manages to haunt hip-hop in a variety of ways, not the least of which being the cutting edge style of production which reinvented what we think of as rap music. That has also come at a price - Dilla's catalogue being more celebrated after his death than it was in life. At some point "celebration" becomes hard to distinguish from "exploitation," so I was happy to hear that long-time friend Frank Nitt and Yancey's own mother were behind this new series of "Lost Scrolls." I'm a little more comfortable with his catalogue being extended by his own family than by record labels who have a much less personal connection to him. That's not to say there aren't worthwhile and heartfelt Dilla tributes from within the hip-hop community, but if anybody's going to dust off the unreleased Dilla material and put it out to the masses, it should be Mrs. Yancey and friends. That said I do actually have a few reservations about "Lost Scrolls," given that "Vol. 1" indicates an open-ended and possibly perpetual series of Dilla 10" records and digital EP's. The short length of "Vol. 1" only increases those concerns given that the A-side and B-side combined are 8:20 in length. If one is being entirely fair Dilla was always a master of making short but sweet statements both as a producer and lyricist, resulting in albums like "Donuts" where the majority of the tracks clocked in under 2 minutes. The flipside of that argument is that if Dilla has so many short unreleased tracks, there's no reason not to put 6 on an EP or single as opposed to 4. Even 12 minutes could be squeezed into a 10 inch with no appreciable loss in bandwidth - in fact given it's nearly the size of a 12 inch you could do far more than that. In digital format there's no loss in quality - there's certainly no reason not to do it there. The most enjoyable thing about this EP may be the opening Dilla freestyle "Smack a Bitch," which is Jay Dee purposefully doing a riff on the Eric B. & Rakim classic "Eric B. Is President." It's exactly the kind of thing I want Nitty and Mrs. Yancey to unearth from his unreleased gems - Dilla just goofing around and having fun over his own beats. It's the kind of thing any true head schooled in the 1980's classics who could produce his own beats might do, and as someone born the same year as Yancey, this track is right up my alley."
Journalist 103 :: Reporting Live :: Babygrande Records
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"It's hard to talk about hip hop from the past five years without bringing up Detroit. Most commonly associated with J Dilla and Eminem, the city of Motown has embraced its soulful roots and industrious mentality to consistently produce hip hop artists of the highest order. Elzhi, Royce Da 5'9'', Apollo Brown, Black Milk, Big Sean, Guilty Simpson, the list goes on. Apollo Brown in particular, has been a producer that regularly releases music of the highest quality. Although gaining a reputation in 2009 with his instrumental full-length "Clouds" and the critically acclaimed "The Reset" which featured a who's-who list of underground rappers, it was 2010 where he produced what was one of the year's greatest hip hop albums. "Gas Mask" by The Left (Apollo Brown, DJ Soko, Journalist 103) was a modern classic and still sounds fresh three years later. Fellow Rap Reviewer Pete T. was equally impressed. Whilst Apollo Brown has gone on to create superb LPs with Boog Brown, O.C. and Guilty Simpson, there's been little to report on Journalist 103. I started to worry when "Reporting Live" only featured one Apollo Brown production. Could Journalist sound so passionate over different production? "The Foundation" is certainly a solid startOn paper, Journalist's rhymes aren't particularly newsworthy, but the passion he brings to a record tells another story. Much like fellow Detroit MC Guilty Simpson, Journalist has a hard hitting, definitively rugged style of spitting. The two actually collaborated on the aforementioned "Gas Mask" with "Reporting Live" being a journalistic "report" on the gritty blocks of Rock City. While "Reporting Live" (the album) doesn't adhere to Journalist playing the role of a news reporter, he simply does what all great rappers do and reports to listeners on what he sees. "Rockstarz" has nothing to do with wild debauchery, but The Snowgoons provide a boom bap-infused production that will have anyone smashing up hotel rooms. Whether it's the Biggie sample on the hook proclaiming "your reign on the top was short like leprechauns" or Journ' claiming he'll make it bang without the parties or rock stars, it's one of the best tracks on the album regardless of the played out "this is real hip hop" message. "
MC Eiht :: Keep It Hood :: Blue Stamp Music Group
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace
"Geaaaaah. It's almost impossible to write this review without at least once slipping in the colloquial word that has become a part of hip-hop vernacular and almost solely associated with a one Mr. Aaron Tyler, professionally known as MC Eiht. As a member of Compton's Most Wanted, perhaps the second most known group to emerge from the aforementioned city (the first being NWA) , MC Eiht hit the scene in 1990 with the release of their first album, "It's A Compton Thang." Two more albums were released under the CMW name, "Straight Checkn 'Em " and "Music To Driveby," before officially moving MC Eiht to the forefront with his "We Come Strapped" album. For that release, the billing was MC Eiht featuring CMW. Over the course of his lengthy career, Eiht has had many hits, including "Growin' Up In The Hood" from the "Boyz N The Hood" soundtrack and "Streiht Up Menace" from the "Menace II Society" soundtrack. MC Eiht actually played the role of A-Wax in the latter of the two films. For many years, MC Eiht was involved in a bitter feud with fellow Compton emcee, DJ Quik and eventually the beef spilled out into the streets and there was loss of life. While not immediately related to the issues between the two, the incident made it seem imperative that these two men settle their differences once and for all. The two have reportedly been on good terms for the past few years. Never one to rest on his laurels, Eiht has remained active over the years both as a solo artist and with Compton's Most Wanted. He has also done collaboration albums with the likes of Spice 1, Brotha Lynch Hung and he is rumored to have a project with the legendary DJ Premier in the works. Most recently, MC Eiht can be heard on a standout track from the newest Compton phenom, Kendrick Lamar's album on the track "m.A.A.d. city," introducing him to a whole new generation of hip hop fans. With that momentum working in his favor, it seems like the perfect time for the legend to drop a new album of gangsta flows."
Jahshua Smith :: The Final Season :: The BLAT! Pack
as reviewed by Zach 'Goose' Gase
"Late last week nerdy TV lovers mourned the demise of critically adored yet underappreciated sitcom 30 Rock. Like the Emmy-toting NBC show, Detroit rapper Jahshua Smith's "Final Season" was its seventh. No, Smith isn't a Tina Fey-type character on a sitcom, but his StewRat-produced debut album uses an extended metaphor, plotting his seven-year journey with his crew the BLAT! Pack as a television series, using skits, not unlike Little Brother's 2005 classic "The Mistrel Show," to piece together a loose narrative. Smith is one of many talented up-and-comers from the Detroit scene that heads should keep an eye on. With a distinctive voice, sharp flows and potent lyrics, he has all the makings of a great emcee. "The Final Season" has a perfect blend of introspective, dark and sometimes political raps, and some less serious, fun tracks. After the album's flawless intro "Seven-Year Itch," which brings listeners up to speed on Smith's career and mission as an emcee, he takes a dark turn with "The Ghost of Medgar Evers." "Evers" is one of StewRat's darker productions on the record with swooping synthesizers and Smith recites some "Life After Death"-era Biggie lyrics. One of the more charming moments of "The Final Season" is at the end of "Evers" where the show's writers complain about starting the album off on such a dark note. They ask Smith to make something for the ladies, and he responds begrudgingly with "Butt/ Don't Hold Back." "Butt" may be Smith pandering to women to boost his fictional show's ratings, but the track is both clever and a banger that appeals to mainstream crowds. Jahshua Smith's best moments on "The Final Season" is when he tackles some more serious subject matter. He discussed gun control on "The Conversation" with lines like "if death is cancer, then the streets the tumor." Smith finds himself getting political again on lead single "-CENSORED-." And BLAT! Pack crewmates Red Pill and Jae Musick join Smith for "Changes," where the three talk about betrayal over StewRat's most eerie beat with a haunting vocal sample on the hook."
Yury :: Still Life Mixtape :: DatPiff.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Yury's "Curriculum Vitae" in 2012 was a good (and free) introduction to the latest Pittsburgh rap sensation not named Wiz Khalifa. He's been steadily releasing mixtapes ever since then, resulting in us covering "Still Life" today, his 4th to date. There's a time and day I would have called that level of output prolific, but these days Odd Future and their imitators seem to release an album or two every month. That's not to say Yury isn't out there hustling though - 4 albums in a year is still going hard - and he's got a very helpful publicist reminding us when each of the new ones drop. That's what it takes to get your name out there. "Still Life" varies between self-produced and outside collaborations, including a familiar name from the last review - Big Jerm teams with Yury to lace up "The Chase." Coincidentally or not it winds up being one of the best tracks on "Still Life." The bass provides a strong backdrop for the symphonic instrumentation, and there's a sly 70's groove to the middle part of each verse, until a drum break pleasantly jars you back into the chorus. It's this kind of mult-layered backdrop that really suits the mellow and laid back Yury best. He sometimes seems too chill for his own good, but this song brings out his competitive spirit, shit-talking about other emcees and his female prowess. As for self-produced tracks, Yury does have a few worthy of praise, including the understated minimalism of "Let It." He almost overdoes that in "Worry" but the music has a certain 8-bit or 16-bit feel and appeal - not an actual chiptune but something video game remixers could relate to. Black Diamond may be the collaborator that does Yury the most justice on "Still Life," turning in four tracks that are all outstanding. "DeLorean" could be heard on a Saigon or Talib Kweli album, "Fleeting" has a quick melody that's hard to get out of your head once the bass blends in, and "Subjective" has a pulse-raising intensity that causes Yury to spit faster."
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