If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Demigodz' "KILLmatic" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Demigodz :: KILLmatic
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Apathy, Celph Titled, Ryu, Esoteric, Blacastan & Motive spend the first full track of "KILLmatic" explaining that the "Demigodz Is Back," but that implies they ever went anywhere. As long as Apathy was around making rap albums, then the head of Voltron was always there, and he could call them up to form the body. Don't get it twisted though - any one of the rappers in this supergroup has the capability to lead. Celph Titled for one shows his Presidential qualities right from the jump. I can hear people crying already that Apathy sampled the Rocky theme for the track, but cliched or not, tell me you could think of a better way to give Demigodz a more epic re-introduction. I'd still argue that among dedicated hip-hop heads no introduction is needed, but outside of those same heads, no introduction will ever suffice. To say Demigodz are an underground phenomenon is an understatement much like saying "a SMALL ROCK from outer space hit Russia" last month. Speaking of Outerspace they are close affiliates of the Godz, so it should come as no surprise Planetary raps on "The Gospel According To..." though in this case it's Esoteric who steals the show. With a crew of talent this deep and so many producers lacing the beats, it might be more fair to say the show gets taken like a thief in the night every few minutes, repeatedly stolen and then stolen back."
7vnseal :: Christ the Supreme :: Artillery Music Group
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Sometimes you have to get lost before you can be saved. That's certainly the case with Robert Encinas Jr. Before he was Christian rapper 7vnseal, Encinas was a gangster rapper named Vizion, and then a Wu-affiliated rapper named 80proof Tha Illa Instinct. He recorded with Killarmy and signed with Shyeim the Manchild. He was also living a life of sex, drugs, and crime. In 2009, after realizing that his lifestyle was a one-way ticket to prison or worse, Encinas found Jesus. He became a minister, changed his name to 7vnseal and started rapping about Christ. "Christ the Supreme" is his second mixtape in six months, following up on October's "Daggers of Truth" mixtape. 7vnseal's church, the Victory Gospel Chapel in San Antonio, Texas, is all about fighting the devil and preaching the Gospel. The church also has a residential Spiritual Growth Center to help people struggling with "drugs, alcohol, and wayward living" find God. "We are a church on Fire and on the Move," their website claims, "Destroying the devil's kingdom and bringing souls to the Kingdom of God." 7vnseal takes the fighting the devil theme literally in his raps, setting himself up as a soldier battling the forces of darkness. His website has a picture of him in a tank with fighter jets, ready to wage actual war against demons. As he and Pastor L. declare on "Holy Darts." 7vnseal may have given up his wicked ways, but he his approach to hip-hop remains the same. He drops hard rhymes over hard beats, only now instead of rapping about sex, drugs and violence, he's rapping about putting the beatdown on Lucifer. His wordplay has much of the same mysticism of the Wu-Tang Clan. He seems to have adapted some of the imagery of the Nation of Gods and Earth and adapted it to Christianity."
Cakes Da Killa :: The Eulogy :: Mishka NYC
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"Cakes Da Killa was a recurring name in the recent wave of coverage of homosexual hip-hop artists. Coverage that insisted that labels like 'queer rap' don't really do justice to the individual artists. And yet there's no way you can talk about the New Jersey resident's first full-length mixtape without making mention of his sexual orientation, simply because he projects a very sexualized image of himself. If you're familiar with rap music but maybe not that familiar with rap music from a same-sex perspective you still shouldn't be surprised by Cakes' choice of words. The only term worth discussing is 'faggot,' which, similarly to 'nigga' in rap in general, is sometimes used in an inclusive, but more often in a disparaging way. If Cakes wasn't ostensibly gay, he'd get called out for several statements on "The Eulogy," and even as it is some LGBT activists would surely have issues with his liberal use of the f word. Parts of Cakes' attitude can without a doubt be attributed to the subculture he also represents, but clearly rap has influenced his mic persona, the alpha leader who's in control and in charge. And like for so many rappers before him, the cocktail of money and power proves to be a potent aphrodisiac. Reminding us that he's also Da Killa, Cakes indeed brandishes firearms to intimidate competition. (At one point he takes "shots to ligaments, got niggas limpin' like Bambi.") It's more notable than objectionable, still when he uses the phrase "Boom bye bye" in the same context, you wonder how the title of one of the most infamously homophobic songs (by Buju Banton) can make its way into the music of a homosexual artist in such an unfortunate way."
Johnny Polygon :: The Nothing :: Johnny Polygon
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace
"It seems like it was so long ago when I sat down with Johnny Polygon's "Group Hug EP," doing my best to dissect it all and jot down some of my thoughts on the project. That was in May of 2009. I remember all of this so vividly because the Tulsa, Oklahoma native's "Group Hug EP" was the first album that I reviewed for this fine website. The following year, JP released "Wolf In Cheap Clothing." The project helped me understand Johnny's style a bit more. He likes to sing, he likes to rap, he loves pussy (and who doesn't?), he uses drugs and he's susceptible to heartbreak. After WICC, Johnny maintained a connection with his fans but he hadn't released much new music. Later this year, Johnny plans to pull the trigger on "Pussy Gun" but he's giving us nothing in the meanwhile..."The Nothing" to be exact. The 12-track project features production from ACDMY, Daygee Kwia, Mateo, Precision and Picnic Tyme. From the onset, it seems as if we're getting a deeper Johnny Polygon this time. Rapping Johnny makes his first appearance on "Normal" declaring that being normal is his worst nightmare and that he prefers to keep a tight grip on his cocktail and a loose grip on reality in the meanwhile. Johnny says that "Whoa Is Me" is a love song of sorts and wonders if he's the only one not overly concerned with being famous on "Brainpowder." One of the album's highlights is "Lovesick (Super Nintendo)," a look into a relationship that has seemingly run its course and is now doing more harm than good to both of its participants. The following "Kosher" seems to be perhaps a predecessor to the song that precedes it. Here, we find Johnny suggesting that it would be terrible if they both admitted that they were miserable, but also suggesting that it would be fun to pretend that he was the only one and that everything was alright."
Craig Mack :: Project: Funk Da World :: Bad Boy Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Rap fans under the age of 18 may be entirely unaware of Craig Mack. That's only fair given the Bad Boy rapper achieved his greatest height of fame in 1994 with the single "Flava in Ya Ear," and a popular remix of the single only exacerbated the notion he was nothing but a one-hit wonder. To make matters worse, his labelmate and rising rap phenom Notorious B.I.G. was blatantly disrespectful toward Mack in interviews of the day. Biggie said he only appeared on the remix "for political reasons" and gave the unflattering remark "nah I don't fuck with that dude" when asked if Mack would have any cameos on his own album. Though they were the first two artists to release albums on the fledgling Bad Boy Records, separated only by a week's time in stores, in truth they couldn't have been further apart. As Mr. Wallace's star continued to rise at a pace faster than even his friend Sean Combs could have expected, the brash lyrical stylings of Mr. Mack quickly took a backseat at the label. It took almost three years for his sophomore album "Operation: Get Down" to come out, and only after he had split from Bad Boy Records to do his own thing. That album is another subject for another day, and believe me there's a lot to be said on that subject, but for now his one and arguably only major success in rap is our focus. The album's self-produced intro seems to confirm what a lot of people thought of Mack at the time - that he came virtually "from nowhere" and achieved stardom, though in truth his debut came six years earlier as MC EZ on the seminal hit Get Retarded. To be honest his style didn't change that much in the interim."
Purpose & Confidence :: The Purpose of Confidence :: Ill Adrenaline
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"You may recall at the end of 2011 reading about an album topping "Best of 2011" lists by an unknown duo going by the name of Rashad & Confidence. Then again, you may have not as it wasn't reviewed by any major online hip hop website, including us here at Rap Reviews. Don't worry, I'll be covering it soon enough. It's only taken a year for another album to pop up with Confidence's name attached to it and yet again, we have another overlooked record with some absolutely stellar sounds to nod your head to. The beats on "The Purpose of Confidence" sound like early Dilated Peoples instrumentals, but updated for the HD-era. Very boom bap yet offering a polish that ensures it doesn't sound old school. The album doesn't have the distinctive sound that an Apollo Brown release does, but it benefits from more versatile backdrops. I do find however, that if I heard a Confidence beat on another record I'm not sure I'd differentiate it from other boom bap producers. Whilst this may seem like a negative aspect it does ensure each beat compliments rather than dominates the vocals. There are a couple of beats that don't quite grab the ear but at least 10 of the 15 tracks are absolute bangers. While Purpose flows well enough and has a voice that rides the drums well, he doesn't really stand out as an MC I would want to explore further. He reminds me of Stricklin without the humour or Torae without the aggression. So undoubtedly he is in good company but he isn't exactly distinctive. Purpose is at his best when telling a story ("Promise Me This") or sharing memories from his younger days ("What It Means To You"). Both tracks are backed up by some beautiful beats but nothing on the album touches the aural delights of "Vision of Excellence" featuring Queensbridge legend Cormega and Estee Nack from Purpose's group Tragic Allies."
Rhyme Asylum :: Solitary Confinement :: Rhyme Asylum Records
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"Horrorcore hip hop is certainly an acquired taste. A taste that usually requires an appreciation of graphic violence and an abundance of testosterone. Although a similar taste can also be sampled in more conventional hip hop, Rhyme Asylum add an intelligence rarely seen by the likes of Necro. Boasting 4 members; Psiklone, Possessed, Skirmish and Plazma, each emcee cut from the same cloth as your Apathys and Vinnie Pazs. What at first appears to be mindless braggadocio and ridiculous claims of superiority, actually contains creative wordplay and an advanced knowledge of rhyme. It's important to point out that Rhyme Asylum are a London-based group that made noise in the UK (as well as worldwide) with their debut release "State of Lunacy", which featured fellow rhyme animals Copywrite and Diabolic. If you know about those two artists, then you'll get a good idea of the content within "Solitary Confinement". A morbid introduction atop horror-flick piano samples and Fat Joe scratched in sets the scene appropriately, although lead-single "Hate Music" is remarkably upbeat, with plenty of black humour as demonstrated by Possessed. He has a slow flow not unlike Evidence, albeit with a gruff delivery. It's not surprising to see him all over the Internet in rap battle tournaments, and his style is the carbon copy of battle rap. Unlike Iron Solomon who struggled to adapt to full length songs, Rhyme Asylum works because each rapper receives 16 bars to try and outdo each other. Whilst Army of the Pharaohs have the market locked down as far as compiling as many underground lyricists as possible over generic beats, the creativity found in one line by Apathy, is evident throughout a whole verse by Psiklone."
Spectac & Shakim :: For the People :: HiPNOTT Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Spectac's background is a little different from the average. While hip-hop is no stranger to teachers who can rock the mic and the classroom, you don't often see a school principal who is also an emcee. It may be that perception is everything - teachers are viewed as being closer in age to their students/listeners, while principals are viewed as being authoritarian and disciplinarian. By nature they are almost always a generation removed from both students and teachers. And Spectac does hint at being a little older by referencing the Juice Crew's classic "Symphony" track on the intro to his "Moment of Truth" posse song, but his rap is new. "For the People" is the kind of album title that immediately causes cynics to raise a skeptical eyebrow. It's the kind of phrase thrown out by every ambitious politician and activist, hoping to draw parallels to 18th century revolutionaries, when many of them have anything other than the good of the public in mind. They'll preach being "for the people" until achieving a measure of power, then promptly forget all their promises, becoming entirely self-serving entities. Now I don't know Spectac personally so I can't say what's in his heart, and even if I did he could be putting up a really good front. His partnership with DJ Shakim on this album suggests a reason for hope though, a cautious optimism, a message that matters. Spectac isn't too serious though - he can still have fun"F.A.C.E." stands for "(Football, Arts, Gomics, Etc.)" and Spectac's punchlines show he's not some stuffy principal spitting serious tomes. He's even got some swagger: "Who's nice as me nigga?" Seriously considering that question for a minute, I'd say he reminds me of both Ras Kass and Freeway - if you could meld the two vocally he'd be the result. But any good emcee, or even one who is above average like Spectac, still gets no further than banging a lunchtable and spitting freestyles without the right production."
Tonedeff :: Glutton :: QN5 Music
as reviewed by Zach 'Goose' Gase
"Tonedeff is one of the most talent rappers of the past 10-15 years. Yes this is a very bold statement especially when the average hip hop head has probably never heard of the New York-based emcee. Tonedeff only has one full-length effort to his name (2005's phenomenal "Archetype"), but since 1997 he has released a few EPs, a group album with Extended Famm, and several other projects. Despite his many skill sets, Tone’s career hasn't really jumped off in the way that one would expect, but he shoulders some of the blame for this. In addition to his admittedly slow writing process, he has spent most of his time and efforts pushing his label QN5 and promoting his fellow talented acts such as the CunninLynguists, Pack FM, Mr. SOS and Substantial. But finally last year Tone announced he's going to focus more on himself, and he announced a slew of releases including his long-awaited sophomore album "Polymer." But last week we didn't receive that project, instead we got a confusing 5-track EP titled "Glutton." If I had one problem with Tone's debut LP, it’s that he tried to do too much on one album. The result, while excellent, was an album that lacked cohesion. With "Polymer" he seems to be focusing on correcting this by combing 4 EPs, all which represent a different style of music, that will piece together for an LP. With "Glutton" Tone gives fans a very electronic sound, with traces of dubstep and house sprinkled in. Back in 2008, he briefly displayed this style on the "Love Lockdown"-inspired "Warden." With "Glutton" he's mastered putting his own personal twist on EDM. The NumberNin6-produced title track is a full-fledged dubstep track, but with some masterful lyricism, ultra-quick flows and complex rhyme schemes. At around the 3-minute mark, the song has a great breakdown with a sensational melody on the bridge. No matter how electronic the instrumental is, Tone is able to breathe a sense of life into every track with his beautifully layered harmonies. While his production is great (he does three of the five cuts himself) and his singing top-notch, his true talent – rapping – is second to none."
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