Saturday June 23, 2018

The (W)rap Up - Week of February 26, 2013 (@MannyWallace)
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 at 1:30PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Myka 9 & Factor's "Sovereign Soul" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!

Courtesy @MannyWallace

[Sovereign Soul] Myka 9 & Factor :: Sovereign Soul
Fake Four Inc.

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon

"Myka 9 doesn't just rap to the beat of his own drum. The best analogy I can give you is that Myka decided to study with a tribe of indigenous people from (insert country or territory here) who had passed down drum making techniques for generations, perhaps even centuries, and after years learning from the masteres he fashioned his own drum. He used it for a while, found himself unhappy with the results, set fire to it and started over again. Myka goes his own way to a degree that even "cult following" doesn't adequately describe anybody who stuck with him for the last 25 years. Even the most ardent fans would have had at least one "What the FUCK is wrong with this dude?" album in their collection by now if not 2-3. He's challenging. He's unconventional. He's unapologetic. He's 9."Sovereign Soul" finds Myka returning to one of his most fruitful partnerships with Canadian producer Factor. There are some partnerships that just work, because no matter how unorthdox the rapper, the producer knows how to provide a sonic landscape that pulls out his best work - a good example being KutMasta Kurt and Kool Keith. When Factor throws in the LL Cool J samples on "Hard Hit" from the hip-hop classic Rock the Bells, it fits like a glove - and yet the track that immediately follows "Ode to Cosmosis" is anything other than a b-boy head nodder. He collaborates with Abstract Rude and Moka Only, two of the few artists who can claim to be as unorthodox as he is, and yet this song fits Myka 9 perfectly too. Rare is the producer like Factor who can make every unorthdox change sound just right."

4 Deep :: Another Day in the Jungle :: Power Artist/Ichiban
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Another Day in the Jungle]"The MC/DJ duo O.G. Style were Houston hip-hop pioneers who sadly are no longer with us. Shortly before or after he and rapper The E parted ways, DJ Boss briefly worked on a couple of Rap-A-Lot projects in 1992 and then left the label to form 4 Deep with his brother Rodney 'Koo Rod' Brown and Chad 'Klas 1' White. Their 1993 debut belongs to the handful of early Houston rap records outside of the Rap-A-Lot catalog yet is still very much in the vein of releases like "Mr. Scarface Is Back" or "Convicts." The album is split into a rawer, more confrontational first half that revolves around dope dealing and turf rivalry, and an at least musically more laid-back second half. Telling the rappers apart proves at times difficult. Not only does Boss show up on the mic several times, they all cover roughly the same vocal range and tend to lose their individual timbre when they rap at a higher volume - which they do quite often. Still those familiar with Scarface should be able to identify lead rapper Klas 1 since he has a habit of patterning his delivery after H-Town's MVP not just in terms of vocal tone but also cadence and writing. As we noted, the O.G. Style debut "I Know How to Play 'Em!" stood out in the wave of early '90s Rap-A-Lot releases as a rap album that dispensed with the gangsta attribute. Without The E on board and with gangstas making the rap world go round by '93, the tone of "Another Day in the Jungle" was decidedly different."

Chiddy Bang :: Breakfast :: Virgin/I.R.S./Regal
as reviewed by Grant Jones

[Breakfast]"Genre snobbery is something that I have been guilty of many times as a hip hop fan. Over the last 10 years I have drifted more and more towards underground hip hop, as mainstream artists implement electronic and dance in to their music creating hybrid artists such as Nicki Minaj and Tinie Tempah. This isn't a bad thing of course, hell I enjoyed the majority of "Pink Friday", but whilst radio stations eat up catchy pop hits (and I will happily listen to if it's on) I would rather have some traditional hip hop on my mp3 whilst riding the bus. Chiddy Bang is two guys; Chidera "Chiddy" Anamege and producer Noah "Xaphoon Jones" Bersin. They have been building a fanbase online for the past few years with their friendly combination of electro-rap and catchy pop. "Breakfast" is the culmination of this, a record designed to have something for everyone. Chiddy isn't a bad rapper, in fact he reminds me of Blu in tone and delivery albeit lacking the refined flow. It's just the whole Gym Class Heroes vibe running throughout "Breakfast" that sees the album rarely venturing from hook-dominated, safe pop-rap. "Mind Your Manners" is innocent chart-fodder, dominated by Icona Pop's chorus that sounds like a group of 8-year old girls singing in the playground. And that is exactly the audience I expect to be eating up "Breakfast". Pop fans that enjoy a bit of rap will find all they need catchy hooks, simple production and sing-along raps. "Ray Charles" is a gospel-infused single that helped Chiddy Bang make numerous fans across the web in 2012. Admittedly it is a likeable track, sounding like I imagine Jurassic 5 would if they eventually reunited. The issue I have is the frequent "I'm Ray Charles" statements from Chiddy. I know he isn't actually comparing himself to the legendary singer, but making a catchy hook to get people singing "I'm Ray Charles" just comes off odd."

D-Sisive :: Run With The Creeps (The D-Luxe Edition) :: URBNET Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The D-Luxe Edition]

"In one sense I can't really add anything about this album that DJ Complejo didn't say on the standard edition. It was a brilliant album in 2011, and it's still a brilliant album now. Derek Christoff's dark and acerbic worldview may not be for everybody, but he taps into a vein that runs deep through hip-hop's core and mines a motherlode of lyrics that speak truth. He mixes his contempt for mediocre unchallenging rap music with a biting sarcastic wit and the urge to lay himself bare on every song - holding none of his self-hatred or personal torment back. The rawness runs red like a blood stained horrorshow of ultraviolence, and yet the music becomes his cure, enabling to shoot his lyrics rockets "To the Moon" with hopeful words like "I'm alive right now." A study in his contradictions could keep a psych ward full of doctors employed for a lifetime, but in the meantime, it creates rap lyrics you can sink teeth into. What makes this "D-Luxe Edition" worth writing about is that it takes what was originally only available in D-Sisive's closet full of leftovers and exposes them to the world, adding 24 more minutes of audio to the presentation. There may be a narrow target audience for these items - Derek fans who bought it the first time and are willing to go to the well once more - and yet those fans would be rewarded by two unreleased version of "Brian Wilson" from "The Book" that are seemingly done with a personal tape recorded in laundry room. You don't often get the chance to see a song now regarded as a hip-hop classic in the raw unpolished developmental stages. All four "tape recorder demos" are as rough as their name suggests yet better than what most emcees with a a full studio could do."

Etana :: Better Tomorrow :: VP Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Better Tomorrow]""Better Tomorrow" is the third offering by Jamaican singer Etana. Both her 2008 debut "The Strong One" and her 2010 follow up "Free Expressions" recieved praise for their mix of gorgeous singing and concious lyrics. Her latest album continues on that path, offering 14 tracks of music that melds neo-soul with reggae. Etana has an incredible voice. It's soulful and sweet and has the edge of someone who has had to fight hard to be where she's at. She also knows how to use her voice. She never overplays it or overpowers the songs. She can hit the high notes when she needs to, but recognizes that sometimes pulling back a little can be more powerful than cranking it up to 11. Shane C. Brown of Jukeboxx Recordings produces the bulk of the album, and like Etana, he subscribes to a less is more philosophy. His productions are restrained, relying heavily on acoustic instrumentation without too many frills and flourishes, and giving Etana plenty of space to sing. The resulting sound has a warm, organic feel, which is the perfect compliment for Etana's voice. On "Strongest," she urges a friend to pick their head up, because "only the srtongest of the strong will survive/And you got to be the fittest of the fit to survive." The message of "Smile" is that life is hard, so there's nothing left but to smile. "Better Tomorrow" imagines a world without suffering. The positivity is all grounded in a realization that life isn't easy, but that the best way to fight against the things that are wrong with the world is to focus on what's good. It's a powerful message, and one that you can't help but find uplifting."

Kevin Gates :: The Luca Brasi Story :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[The Luca Brasi Story] "Baton Rouge rapper Kevin Gates has almost all of the essential elements that of a 21st century superstar. He can sing as good as he can rap,which gives his songs a musical edge that makes them appealing to a large audience. He can be dirty yet romantic, which means that he's got the ladies on his side. He comes with a criminal past, prison record for drugs and guns, and a few shots taken, thus assuring his street cred. He raps about the streets in both a cautionary way and celebratory way, which gives his tales of crime and violence a moral center that makes them easier to swallow. He's perfected these elements over a slew of mixtapes that has made him an artist that connects equally to the streets, the club, and the college kids. "The Luca Brasi Story" is another entry in the Kevin Gates story. Gates' music has the shiny gloss of mainstream rap peppered with some of the roughness of trap rap. The rough elements keep things from getting too jiggy, and the gloss ensures that his music rises above the deluge of mediocre street rap. Most importantly, Gates can actually rap. He's equal parts T.I. (to whom he owes the whole Luca Brasi/Kevin Gates concept), Kendrick Lamar, and Drake. "Paper Chasers" is a good example of Gates' unique take on trap music. On the surface, it's a standard drug rap song about selling coke. What sets it apart from the million other songs about the same subject is the fact that Gates sings most of his rhymes over 80s power ballad keyboards. While Gates is bragging about the illicit money he's making, there is an air of desperation in his voice as he sings lines like "Live the hustle/Probably die/Gangsta and ecetera." "Weight" is another example of how Gates makes old formulas seem fresh."

Grieves :: Together/Apart :: Rhymesayers Entertainment
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Grant Jones

[Together/Apart]"Rhymesayers have always struck me as a label that could market an artist towards the current trend in hip hop. The last few years have introduced the public to Lupe Fiasco, Kid Cudi, Gym Class Heroes, Asher Roth, Tinie Tempah and Macklemore, all MCs that transcend the guns and bitches stereotype rappers are often slung with, in favour of a friendly, almost geek-like appearance. As I'm in stereotype-mode, let's say Rhymesayers is the home of backpack rap, with a roster packing Slug and Aesop Rock, that's undeniable. I'd always bypassed Rhymesayers off as quirky art-rap that wasn't easy on the ear, but when Evidence joined the ranks in 2009, I'll admit now, I've been following each release with fervour. One such artist that piqued my interest was Grieves, a rapper that ticks all the boxes as far as chart material goes; skinny, white, can sing and has a friendly demeanour. "Lightspeed" was my first experience of Grieves and it sucked me in with that old chestnut - nostalgia. There has been a million "back in the day" songs, but accompanied with a professional looking video "Lightspeed" is a mellow take on not only how simple life used to be, but how fast life goes by. "Tragic" is Grieves in full flow. Accompanied by a fine impression of Lil Wayne on the hook alongside the excellent Brother Ali (who delivers a pitch-perfect verse), musically things don't get simpler. "Pressure Cracks" plods along nicely and is probably the most accessible song on the album. The ratio of singing to rapping is pretty equal, and the end of the track switches up to include what can only be described as "wannabe dubstep". It lacks on content but undoubtedly fits in nicely before "No Matter What" delivers a more convincing display of hip hop, coupled with a Budo-produced piano pounder. Utilising a catchy-as-fuck MIDI-infused backdrop, "Vice Grip" sees Grieves bemoaning the fact women push him towards drugs in between a brilliant hook that you won't get out of your head for days."

J. Sands & J Dilla :: Mrs. Sands (A Love Story) :: BUKA Entertainment
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Mrs. Sands (A Love Story)] "This review marks the end of our unofficial J Dilla month at RapReviews, one in which I've marked the anniversary of his passing while simultaneously pondering the wisdom of extending his musical legacy. I recently told a good friend on Facebook that I felt a continued series of "from the vaults" releases featuring Tupac Shakur and James Yancey among others could ultimately be detrimental to hip-hop. "We may find hip-hop music turned into The Beatles, where every single unreleased studio session is yet one more sad and pathetic attempt to cash in on the deceased." I stand by that statement, but I want to expand on it - I also feel the danger is that if hip-hop spends too much time looking backward, the music of the arts won't move forward. That said there's no reason talented artists can't pay heartfelt tribute to the contributions of their peers, and J. Sands is both talented and still largely unheralded, despite the Lone Catalysts being one of the most important groups of the 2000's. Their catalogue was not prodigious, their commercial success was limited, and yet in terms of their influence there's no question that J. Sands' lyrics and J. Rawls' beats shaped hundreds of duplicators and imitators. Sands has stayed busy as a soloist since then, and even has his own long-running series of YouTube videos called Sands on Sports. Save for Dan-e-o I can think of few people I'd rather tribute Dilla. Originally released in February 2007 a year after Dilla's death, "A Love Story" has a unique approach to paying respects to his legacy. While Sands is neither the first nor the last to flow over the pioneering beat maestro's productions, other rappers have tended to squeeze that clay in their hands until it fit the shape they wanted: hardcore, abstract, beatnik, gangster, pop, or whatever. Sands on the other hand set out with a theme and a plan - to celebrate his love of Dilla's music by celebrating the love of his life - the "Mrs." to his "Mr." As such Sands is not forcing any of these beats to fit his steelo - instead he's selecting Dilla beats that go with his mode and mood. These light and airy beats already fit his love theme and could have stood as a tribute even without the raps - and yet heartfelt raps like "Feel" just enhance them."

Sneakas :: There's a Rapp For That :: Serchlite Multimedia/DatPiff
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[There's a Rapp For That] "No, "There's a Rapp For That" isn't Sneakas mocking the information age, it's simply his way of saying that rap's got answers too. Being on the come-up, the New York representative would surely like you and me to focus on him while he has our attention. But I've always maintained that rap is bigger than one artist or the handful of stars the music industry promotes at any given time, and so when Sneakas declares on the opening title track, "This is real life shit, voice of tomorrow / cause freedom can't ring in the voice of the hollow," I'm not desperate to prove or to refute that the artist in question really speaks on "real life shit" and emerges as the "voice of tomorrow," I view it foremost as an apt characterization of rap as an artform. Let's bear in mind that rap has been providing content longer than the internet and dispenses everything from news, drama, games, counseling, lifestyle and nostalgia to smut. The one challenge all rappers face is finding ways to address things. Run-D.M.C. knew that "it's tricky to rock a rhyme that's right on time," but writing a song that is right for the times is another thing. Sneakas himself recalls spending "a whole album sayin' I was sayin' somethin' / But I said that so much that by the end I said nothin'." This time around he packs quite a lot into his songs. "Karma" illustrates the concept of karma through storytelling over a '00s beat from main musical contributor, Detroit producer Dewitt Moore (DeNotes Productions), followed by the likewise philosophical "Negatives," which is engineered by producer(s) //LXG from a straight drum track into a full-fledged emotional pop backing."

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