If you missed any of the new reviews this past week, including Slum Village & Mick Boogie's "The Dirty Slums 2" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Slum Village & Mick Boogie :: The Dirty Slums 2
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"J Dilla month continues at RapReviews with "The Dirty Slums 2," although the connection here is a little more tenuous. His Slum Village membership brought recognition of his production talents to a new level, but Dilla moved on to his own career in the early 2000's and his departure was the first of many upheavals for the group. The only original member of the group still alive is T3, and long-tenured and popular lyricist Elzhi departed from SV in 2010 - arguably not on good terms. What exactly is the group now? Well you've got Dilla's brother Illa J in the mix, long-time affiliate Young RJ, and you've got T3. I suppose as the sole person with direct linage to the name since day one, anything with T3 can be called "Slum Village." Other things such as any current or former member rapping over Dilla beats could be considered "related" but not necessarily SV itself.As confusing as the scenario seems to be from the first paragraph, the very fact this amorphous group is worth trying to discern should give you an inkling to the value of the Slum Village name. It's almost silly at times on "Dirty Slums 2" though, as the revolving door lets a parade of collaborators in and out, any of which could probably stake a claim to SV after this point. Black Milk is in no way an original member, but his Detroit sound and style make him a spiritual successor to not only the group but to the Jay Dee sound that put them on the map. Guilty Simpson was one of Dilla's favorite collaborators, so including him on songs like "Decadence" invokes the ghost. Even North Carolina's Rapper Big Pooh claims in an interlude that (paraphrasing) there would be no Little Brother without SV, and no him without Little Brother, so there's another piece of the pie. The truth of the matter though is that T3 is on 17 out of 24 slices of that fruit filled pastry, and when you subtract out interludes and skits that's actually 17 out of 19. If you were under the mistaken impression T3 was generously handing out shares of Slum Village to anybody with a connection to the group or deceased cohorts Dilla and Baatin, the fact he's on almost 90% of the songs on what's ostensibly being given away for free (though a high quality paid download is an option) proves who is the alpha dog and who calls the shots."
Abstrakt Idea :: Beats, Blunts & Burgers Vol. 2 :: Lunatick Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Offered for a limited time as a free download, Lunatick Records is attempting to get the word out on a dope album they feel was slept on. I'll be the first to admit taking the NyQuil, because before they contacted me about it, I was not aware of Abstrakt Idea's "Beats, Blunts & Burgers Vol. 2." If we're being perfectly honest about it, I wasn't even aware of "Vol. 1," and I initially confused the artist in question here with Abstrakt Soundz. Considering both are producer-driven and have "Abstrakt" in their name, it's not hard to see why. Now if the "Abstract Poetic" Q-Tip had gotten involved in one or both albums, we'd really be in a jar of confusion pickles. That's a good segue though because "Beats, Blunts & Burgers Vol. 2" actually has one track that's not instrumental only - and the rapper from it dates to the Native Tongues era. Hip-Hop legend Sadat X from the Brand Nubian clan can be heard on the 2:49 of "Story to Tell." It's not high art from the man formerly known as Derek X, but it's a nice reminscing track as he looks back at his hip-hop life where "I've seen dudes whole careers come and go/drown off of one sin-gle/make a catchy jin-gle and they gone." Few rappers could pull off rhyming "and go" with "sin-gle" and make it work, but Sadat X has always been unorthdox so he does get away with it. The other 40 minutes and change of "Triple B" (in my head that sounds like Guy Fieri saying "Triple D") is an exercise in audio masturbation, but don't get disturbed by that - picture the opposite sex (or if you swing that way the same sex) performing in front of you to get you hot. Abstrakt Idea is trying to do the same with your ears - okay maybe that IS disturbing, sorry loves. And yet "Bring It Down" is made to entice you - it's the kind of song you want to hear somebody like Pacewon rapping over."
Blanco & The Jacka :: Misfits :: Guerrilla Entertainment
as reviewed by Matt Jost
""Misfits" is the second volume in Blanco & The Jacka's EP trilogy and another amalgamation of various visual ingredients into a vaguely 'conceptual' release. Title, logo and skull and skeleton are borrowed from '80s New Jersey punk band the Misfits, the patriarchs of horror punk. Also making an appearance is the quite likely most famous contemporary street artist, Banksy, whose artistically minded rat is depicted twice, along with his Bazooka-wielding Mona Lisa (CD edition). Then there's again something funny with the song titles going on, but unlike in the case of "Obey" this reviewer has no idea what inspired them. Suffice to say that Blanco and Jacka haven't suddenly gone emo despite songs like "Narcissist" and "Bipolar." This time around the position behind the boards is taken by araabMUZIK, famous for MPC-manhandling, DipSet production and an ear-catching instrumental album called "Electronic Dream." With the public being left in the dark about what exactly the deal is with this project, someone online claimed that araab 'produces the whole EP off samples from one rock album.' Personally I doubt that's the case considering the music is relatively diverse. The joyous, reverberating grooves in "Pretentious" perfectly mesh with Pressure Bust Pipes' ragga chanting. There's an Asian vibe to "Narcissist," "Optimistic" is rhythm and blues in slow motion with its gradually developping pianos and organs, "Pessimistic" and "Anxiety" feature somber, esoteric synths, etcetera. If these 8 tracks have one thing in common, it's the masterful, meticulous drum programming that anchors them firmly in hip-hop. Quality beats require rappers who are up to the task, and "Misfits" features exactly the kind of charismatic, seasoned voices who can project reason and emotion across detailed flows. A Freeway hook frames "Optimistic" while Blanco leads the pack with a surprisingly slick performance, who, as is the case so often with rap, can really only be appreciated when witnessed firsthand."
Mad Dukez :: Monster in a Man Suit, Volume 4 - Wanted :: Mad Dukez/DTR45
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Mad Dukez has quickly established himself as a rising face of the Buffalo hip-hop scene and for the East coast in general. Before going overboard with hyperbole let's be perfectly clear that Dukez fits into an underground niche, one which he freely admits in interviews that he's happy to be a part of. Dukez could certainly use his talent and intellect to make pop radio rap tunes, but that market is saturated by mediocre rappers with major label funding. Dukez is pursuing a more artistically fulfilling path, but turning left at that fork in the road has (for now at least) left him relatively obscure. "What can I say? I guess I'm too nice." Perhaps he is. If this is your first introduction to Mad Dukez, you may be a little confused as to why he dismissively says "we've got enough angry rappers now" on "Too Nice." If that's the case Dukez, why so Mad? In a slightly misguided but otherwise heartfelt soliloquy about tolerance, American Dad's protagonist Stan Smith once opined that his political party should only "hate what's truly worthy of hatred" instead of religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. In the outro of "Too Nice" Mad Dukez begins to fill in those blanks in a similar way - he's "mad" at what truly deserves his ire - those who doubt him. "Double fuck your statements, and disbelieving banter/I have hung you out to dry, new laundry's in the hamper."On the last volume Mad Dukez linked up with fellow underground artist Fresh Kils, resulting in a cutting edge electronic-tinged hip-hop sound. This time his album is mixed on the American side of the border by Western New York producer Camaican Sensation, who mines mixtape style beats for "Monster" into a relatively seamless musical blend - meaning the 21 minutes passes by quickly and painlessly. That has a downside though - Fresh Kils' aggressive production strongly punctuated Dukez thoughts while this recyling doesn't do anything one could call "pushing the envelope." To be sure a song called "Recess" should be bouncy and friendly, but I find myself craving the angry buzzing sound of "Started Small" instead."
Messy Beatz :: Donkey Kong Project :: Messy Productionz
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"I'm a sucker for Donkey Kong Country - always have been. When it first came out for Super Nintendo, the look was light years ahead of any other platforming game available. Rare invested heavily in cutting edge 3D graphics rendering technology, but just as impressive was how they were able to pack that 3D imagery onto a SNES size cartridge. Nintendo stuck with the cartridge format for years, a move which may have ultimately cost them market share against the Sony PlayStation, but which endeared me to them as a gamer. Carts are durable and reliable, even with their size and storage limitations, and it took an epic game like Final Fantasy VII to finally lure me over to the "dark side" of disc based console gaming. I digress. You're not reading about Messy Beatz to hear me wax poetic about the bygone days of Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64, and for that I apologize. Then again when you're writing six reviews in a day, it helps to have something to wax poetic about. Messy Beatz uninentionally released a free "beat tape" right up my alley as a gamer. In his press release M.B. refers to Donkey Kong Country's "experimental almost ambience like beats" and he's not kidding. It wasn't just the cutting edge graphics rendering which made the game so addictive back in 1994 - it was the music by Robin Beanland, Eveline Fischer and David Wise which gave each level more than the average amount of atmosphere. Everybody can hum the Super Mario Bros. music, but part of the reason it's so identifiable is that it got recycled for so many levels - just like the "underground" SMB music and the "water" music. DKC used a wide range of atmospheric music to create different moods, even for the bonus levels, and though they may have repeated in places (such as the mine cart levels, and the swimming worlds) these were not simple chiptunes - they were fully orchestrated worlds. Messy Beatz only takes the time to remix and reimagine five of them, when there are over two dozen different individual songs in DKC. Among my favorites is "Aquatic Ambiance," which M.B. has added his own hip-hop take to on "Confused." There's a downside to this though - as much as I'd like to praise Messy Beatz for his efforts he's adding on to something that was essentially dope to begin with. The tempo's a little different, the pitch is a little different, the beat is a little harder."
Nosaj Thing :: Home :: Innovative Leisure Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Jason Chung, who performs as Nosaj Thing, is part of the hip-hop community but makes music just outside of it. He's produced songs for Nocando, Busdriver, Kid Cudi and Kendrick Lamar, and he is a Low End Theory regular. Despite the fact that he performs with rappers, his music has a distant relationship to hip-hop. That relationship was barely visible on his 2009 debut "Drift," and it is almost impossible to detect on his sophomore release, "Home." Where "Drift" had icy synths at the forefront, "Home" has a much more subtle sound. Most of the beats are little more than whirrs and clicks, over which he places sparse synthesizers. The effect combines the atmosphere of ambient music with electro-pop. In many ways "Home" feels like an instrumental electro-pop album more than an instrumental hip-hop album. That isn't to say that "Home" is a lesser album, but you do need to adjust your expectations when you approach it. If you are anticipating block-rocking beats or showy instrumentals, you will be sorely disappointed. He doesn't bring the bass and drums that other hip-hop producers working with ambient music provide, Clams Casino for example. If you are up for a more subtle experience, however, "Home" can be a rewarding listen. Kazu Makino, who performs with indie band Blonde Redhead, provides vocals on "Eclipse/Blue." The burbling beat has echos of "Such Great Heights," and Makino seems to be channeling British shoegaze singers with her whispy, ethereal vocals. It's a beautiful song that is expertly constructed with just the right mix of clicking beat, synth swells, and haunting melody."
Pro.Era :: PEEP: The aPROcalypse :: Pro.Era/Cinematic Affairs
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"So you've discovered this rap crew, learn of a new project they just put out, you download it, give it a spin and check the credits. The headliner you're already familiar with, so it's time to get to know the folks he brought along. You start researching names and in a matter of minutes that collection of music you've been enjoying gets cast into a cruel light... New York collective Pro.Era released its second mixtape on December 21st, coinciding with the presumed end of the world if we were to believe pseudo-scientifical, superstitious speculations. Three days later, life going on as always, news broke that one of Pro.Era's members, Capital STEEZ, tragically put an end to his life. The passing of one of their founding members will be a crossroad for the young crew, there will be a before and an after, nonetheless "PEEP: The aPROcalypse" stands testament to the philosophy of the Progressive Era, notably a name STEEZ helped coin. Capital STEEZ is an instantly engaging MC, meshing youthful enthusiasm with a philosophical outlook. The verse above is elevated by the music, a finespun combination of emotional pianos and rich drums that Statik Selektah provides for "Like Water," underlining the Common connection with vocal cuts. It's a great entrance to a mixtape that like many group efforts enables individual members to shine moreso than the crew as a whole. And then there are the frontrunners, Joey Bada$$ and Capital STEEZ, who debuted side by side in the former's very first video, "Survival Tactics." The two share spiritual concerns, which they express together on "Like Water" and "K.I.N.G.S." Further appearances are made by A La Sole, Kirk Knight, Dyemond Lewis, Rokamouth, Dirty Sanchez and Chuck Strangers (who also contributes two beats). 8 MC's pass the mic during the "Last Cypher," which STEEZ closes with one more verse so inspired it simply leaves you perplexed."
Random a/k/a Mega Ran :: Language Arts Volume 2 :: Mega Ran Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Sandwiched between "Volume 1" and "Volume 3" comes "Language Arts Volume 2," an album whose omission would be a curious oversight in the RapReviews catalogue. The timing of reviewing it when it came out almost six months ago just didn't work out for many reasons - and one of them was that with so many albums already on my plate I avoided the one I had an inherent bias for. After all I directly supported Random on promoting the project through YouTube - so I had every reason to think my review might not be the fairest. Now that enough time has gone by that my promo video's commercial value has faded, there's no reason to leave this gap for metaphoric game players to jump over - we can bridge the beginning to the end. "Volume 2" smartly address some of the concerns I had on the previous iteration (well aside from my own bias) by deepening the pool of material. Though the 10 tracks go by fairly quickly at just under 33 minutes, the plethora of guest rappers make this one feel like more of a full length album. MC Lars guest stars on the duet "Me & The Mouse," poet du jour Wordsworth joins in for "On the Line" and the biggest surprise of all is long-time Little Brother affiliate Chaundon on the song "Better Off" - Raheem Jarbo's ode to being single. For those who haven't been following the story so far, Random is portraying a Teacher/Rapper/Hero whose students have been brainwashed by an immersive video game where they walk around in a zombie state - unaware of the evil that they may do. Not only is it affecting him personally to see them get dragged into evil, it's affecting him professionally as his failing students could lead to him getting fired. Though he dreams of being an emcee on the side, the protagonist of our story still needs his job to pay the bills. All of this is artfully tired together by the music on the albums, the digital comic books packaged with them, and the Language Arts video game you can play online."
Stig of the Dump :: Cannon Fodder EP :: F.U.Music/Lewis Recordings
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"Not long ago I covered the album of a British rap artist who hoped to pepper his proven electro rap concoction with some rock ingredients. The result had little to do with rap or rock. You see, like blues and jazz rock and rap music are not merely a matter of instrumentation and vocal technique. Rock 'n roll is an attitude. Hip-Hop is an attitude. And occasionally these attitudes are one and the same, enabling the two genres to morph into one, sometimes right there on the spot, the studio, the stage, etc., sometimes more in theory when congruences emerge across the history of popular music. Not to worry, Stig of the Dump is not some arranged rap/rock marriage, Stig is a legit MC, a bullheaded, bearded and bespectacled rhyming wrecking ball. The Newcastle native has extensive battling credentials and a couple of shorter releases under his belt, the "Cannon Fodder EP" being his latest. It's a brief but intense trip into a sharp maverick mind expressing itself with ravenous flows and sardonic lyrics over booming tracks. Production is provided exclusively by Pete Cannon, an Englishman grounded in traditional hip-hop himself. There are five tracks, "One" naturally coming first. It's about Stig's girl problems, who unfold slowly but surely, as if told by a mean-spirited Biz Markie. While "One" samples a '60s pop tune to good effect, the rest of the EP goes harder. Again the exact orchestration doesn't matter that much, it's the overall impact the tracks have as Stig projects his precise commands over them. On "Hard Work" he demands hard currency as well as due respect for his efforts with respective analogies like "Grindin' like a cokehead's teeth" and "I want 'em studyin' my quotes like Plato's." "Official" lives up to its name with furious performances from the rapper and his producer as they steamroll over competition."
Young Jeezy :: Its Tha World :: DatPiff.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
It is perhaps both compliment and condemnation to say I can hear Young Jeezy's voice in my head just from reading the song titles of "Its Tha World." In fact I nearly had the chorus of "Damn Liar" figured out in my head before playing the song, other than that I gave Young Jeezy too much credit - I figured he'd throw in a "I'm hotter than fire/Say you like me, youse a God damn liar" somewhere. Jeezy chose to keep it extra simple though and only rhyme "liar" with "liar." Extra simple may also be why he left the punctuation out of the title of his album. He could have tried to argue it was a possessive were it not for the fact he translated it to "Es El Mundo" underneath, proving that "Its" should have been a contraction for "It IS The World" - but it is what "it is" though so let's move on. Jeezy gets away with a lot more than grammatical mistakes over the course of a typical album, due largely to the charismatic way he delivers his vocals and the producers he chooses to work with. Going as far back as 2005 I've felt his lyricism was a bit suspect, but it's hard to deny that Jeezy has a dedicated cult following, one so large that giving away a Jeezy album free on DatPiff is more of a surprise than anything you'll find on it. Both the topic matter and delivery of these songs is Young Jeezy cliches personified - being real, moving bricks, eating well, living good, destroying his rivals, trusting not a soul. Young Jeezy gets credit for a few things on this hour long release - the first of which is the DJ Mustard produced "R.I.P." featuring 2 Chainz. It's got the heavy bass bottom which can help you get past forgettable bragging, but he did get my attention with the lines "Who the nigga think he is, Slick Rick or Dana Dane?/Think he Rakim or some'n, look at his chain." Speaking of Mustard on the beat, E-40 makes a cameo on "All the Same." It shouldn't be this obvious which two songs are the best tracks on "Its Tha World" but once again it is what "it is." There are some otherwise decent songs though. "Get Right" would be even better without all the DJ Drama shoutouts - Black Metaphor creates the kind of menacing piano background that suits Jeezy best. Mike Will also makes a hot one for "Tonight" featuring Trey Songz, which will probably be a crossover song once some crassness gets censored."
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