If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Tyga's "Hotel California" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Tyga :: Hotel California
Young Money/Cash Money/Republic Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"There are more than a few people asking. Tyga has been floating around the hip-hop scene since at least 2008, but he blew up in a major way with 2012's "Careless World" album, particularly the crossover success of his "Rack City" single. An infectious DJ Mustard instrumental was arguably more important to the song's success than Tyga's vocal performance, particularly given "Rack City" peaked at #7 on the Billboard Top 100 and none of the album's other singles charted higher than #33. On the whole though "Careless World" established Tyga as a bonafide rap star, and his close association with the Young Money imprint has certainly been beneficial for both him and founder Lil Wayne. This raised the profile of his 2013 follow-up album "Hotel California" to highly anticipated status, and the first single "Dope" certainly got people talking. There's very little in hip-hop music that is truly sacrosanct, given that one of the tenants of its rise to popularity was rapping over breakbeats and samples of the previous generation, but even in an anything goes genre "Dope" treads on sacred ground. Dr. Dre's "Deep Cover" is a landmark hip-hop single, far more important than the movie of the same name it was recorded for, given that it singlehandedly launched the career of a young Calvin Broadus Jr. b/k/a Snoop Dogg. Now Tyga is not the first to revisit this now 20+ year old song, but the most notable example is Big Pun, and his duet with Fat Joe took great pains to recapture the spirit of the original - the same sound effects, the same piano stabs, structuring the chorus the same way, and the camraderie between the two artists being equivalent to that found between Dre and Snoop. "Dope" fails on almost all accounts other than the famous "I CAN FEEL IT.""
Big K.R.I.T. :: King Remembered In Time :: Cinematic Music Group
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace
"Chamillionaire once said "My fanbase is a cult" and there was evidence of that all around the internet. Message boards were dominated by stickied threads, people had Color Changin Click lizard-shaped haircuts and some even dared to get tattoos. It's been a good eight or nine years since then and now there are plenty more rappers with cult-like followings, Meridian, Mississippi's Big K.R.I.T. is among them. Over the past decade or so, the route to stardom has been to build a buzz through mixtapes, secure a deal, drop more tapes and then release a major label debut. Big K.R.I.T. did that starting with his "See Me On Top" mixtape series. In 2010, he made noise with his K.R.I.T. Wuz Here" project which earned him his Def Jam deal. The debut album was delay several times, but in the interim K.R.I.T. managed to bless his fans with "Returnof4eva" and "4evaNaDay" before the official release of "Live From The Underground." "LFU," as K.R.I.T. affectionately calls it, was met with relatively positive reviews and debuted at number five on the charts, but some still felt it paled in comparison to the projects K.R.I.T. had released for free. After laying low for awhile, K.R.I.T. re-emerged with an endorsement from his favorite libation, Crown Royal and a new track entitled "Shine On." Just last week Krizzle held a Ustream chat with his fans answering questions and playing songs from the latest project, "King Remembered In Time." It wasn't until the end of the chat when he announced the project would be available for download in less than a week. As par for the course, the mixtape is produced entirely by K.R.I.T. himself, save for one track produced by 9th Wonder. Guest appearances include the likes of Bun B, Ashton Jones, Future, Trinidad James, Wiz Khalifa, Smoke DZA, BJ the Chicago Kid and Big Sant. An electric guitar wails and a baby is born as time starts ticking with "Purpose," a testament to K.R.I.T.'s dedication to accomplishing the goals he has set for himself and in the process declaring what he has done so far is not a fluke. Bun B appears on the aforementioned "Shine On" with Young Krizzle looking "cleaner than a Baptist preacher...that used to pimp," making the arguement that if God didn't want him to shine he would never let him chop on blades."
Copywrite :: Carbon Copy's Phony Art Pub Scam :: Man Bites Dog Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"This might be the wrong time to admit it, and sacrilege in the hallowed halls of music criticism, but growing up I was NOT a big fan of the Beatles. They had broken up before I was even born, and I came of age after John Lennon had been assassinated, so from where I sat as a youth the venerated status they held was completely irrelevant. Rappers were sampling James Brown, not Paul McCartney, and the nostalgia of my parents' generation for these insectoids seemed too closely related to Elvis Presley for my liking - and we all know what Chuck D had to say about Elvis (and John Wayne). In later years my attitude has softened a bit, and while I still don't own any of their albums (nor have a desire to), I can at least recognize the historic importance of albums like "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" in the music world. Greatest album of all time though? Nah. If I had to pick one today it would probably be a Public Enemy or Run-D.M.C. release, or somebody of their ilk. That's why I've passed up reviewing Beatles mash-ups like "The Grey Album" up until now - they're just not my cup of tea. "Carbon Copy's Phony Art Pub Scam" is being distributed free, because if you can imagine the cost of clearing samples for clearing any part of the Beatles' catalogue let alone "the greatest album of all time," well that's just not going to happen - let alone for an indie underground emcee like Copywrite operating on a shoestring budget. That's not to say that giving it away for free exempts them from the current owners of the catalogue (formerly it was Michael Jackson) as you can still be pursued litigiously for affecting the value of a work even if you don't profit from it. Copywrite and Man Bites Dog Records may just skate on this one for the very same reason the Beatles were irrelevant to me growing up - underground indie hip-hop is irrelevant to the publishers of their music. Threatening the (in this case) ironically named Copywrite would gain them nothing except perhaps for getting this album taken offline."
Cyrus Malachi :: Ancient Future :: No Cure Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"The British hip hop scene is overloaded with technically gifted emcees, from Split Prophets to Rhyme Asylum, there are plenty of examples of rappers rapping about how great they are at rapping. There are also a lot of British rappers who rhyme about real shit, what I like to call ‘Reality Rap'. Verb T, Sonnyjim and Micall Parknsun have all excelled at bringing life to the most mundane affair, through their superior use of humour, character and thumping choice of production. Unfortunately the scene has divided in to two distinct sub-genres of late; those that embrace the essence of boom-bap beats and a message (the aforementioned artists) and those that rhyme over glossier productions, usually accompanied by singing (Tinie Tempah, Professor Green, Devlin). Whilst the two styles rarely transcend each other, one rapper that had the potential to meet a wider audience WITHOUT altering his style of production was Klashnekoff. There have been success stories since Klashnekoff, such as political rapper Lowkey, but not since "The Sagas of…" has an artist brought a raw intensity, heartfelt message and disregard for what's popular, so emotionally. Klashnekoff had a lot of buzz about him ten years ago, and I remember hearing one of his songs on DJ Premier's radio show which is very rare. After a long hiatus, Klashnekoff came back a few years ago to a muted response. So who's the next big rapper in British hip hop? This review is my argument for Cyrus Malachi. A deep, booming presence with a thick London accent, Cyrus Malachi not only dominates every collaboration he's appeared on, but fills each verse with an incredibly varied vocabulary not heard since Canibus."
Ecid :: Post Euphoria Vol. 1 :: Fill in the Breaks
as reviewed by Zach 'Goose' Gase
"When I listened and reviewed Minneapolis-based emcee/producer Ecid's "Werewolf Hologram" album just less than a year ago, I was left with mixed feelings. On one hand, I felt Ecid was an entirely unique artist with an exceptional talent on the beat-making side of things, but I thought his voice and personality on the mic was strongly lacking. Ecid is gearing up for a big year with a new album and a series of EPs in store, his first project, "Post Euphoria EP (Vol. 1)" marks a strong improvement from his previous work. Again, Ecid's production is phenomenal throughout the EP – blending synthesizers and chopped up samples over hard-hitting drums. Listeners who do not enjoy his bizarre lyrics and vocal delivery, will still enjoy the beats on this EP. Tracks like "Kum & Go" and "Dream Boat" have chopped up samples that you expect from a boom bap record, while "2Pac Cobain" and "Insomniac By Choice" feature a symphony of synthesizers. Lyrically Ecid has shown some improvement since "Werewolf Hologram," and there seem to be a lot less clunky one-liners and forced wordplay on "Phost Euphoria." Also his voice seems to be a lot less grating over the 6-track EP than on a full LP. Like his previous work he addresses some interesting subject matter, such as the stand-out closing track "Akmude Sallam (2013)." On the dark finale, he raps about an immigrant, who traveled to America to escape the plight of his former country in the Middle East, and vowed to raise enough money to bring his family to the states"
Goondox :: Welcome to the Goondox :: RBC Records
as reviewed by Pete T.
"Upon EPMD's 1992 dissolution, M.D.s E and P assumed new identities - Erick Sermon the funky and Parrish "PMD" Smith the rugged - personae reflected by their new partners-in-crime, the former flanking himself with Redman and Keith Murray and the latter tapping a suddenly gritty Das EFX and a realigned Hit Squad. While the Green Eyed Bandit would find greater success as both a producer and a solo act, PMD authored a rock-solid solo discography even after EPMD went "Back in Business" in 1997, highlighted by 1996's "Business Is Business," one of New York's most overlooked gems of the mid-90s. PMD's always been happy to lend his considerable presence to collaborations, such as 2002's similarly underrated "Underground Connection" with DJ Honda, and he turned more than a few heads with the announcement of a new union with Queens rapper Sean Strange and German production duo Snowgoons. What the resulting full-length "Welcome to the Goondox" may lack in concepts and novelty it attempts to make up in craftsmanship - these guys are old pros. Snowgoons hardly compromise their established sound, letting PMD adapt to a generally more orchestral blueprint than his usual gully East Coast environs, but it's a welcome adjustment. The kickoff title track is a furious triumph, finding Strange and PMD trading bars in unorthodox rhyme schemes over a dramatic arrangement. "New Box" and "Bang Out (Remix)" succeed via the same formula, and the cinematic aura of Snowgoons' production carries "Forever (Til the Death)," the marathon posse cut "Raps of the Titans," and the heavyweight closer "Y'all Invited." Musically it's a relatively straightforward affair - Snowgoons fail to exhibit the range displayed on their 2011 M.O.P. tryst "Sparta," but their tracks are suited for both rapping parties, no small feat given the apparent chasm between their styles."
Hectic Zeniths :: Type One Era :: HecticZeniths.com
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Hectic Zeniths is a project of Adam Morgan Smith, a producer, multi-instrumentalist, and math teacher from Philadelphia. He released his debut self-titled album last year, and has followed up with an EP. His debut was largely recorded with other musicians, sampling, manipulating, and laying beats over live piano, violin, and drums. On this EP, Smith used a field recorder to record found sounds, and configures those sounds into heavily-altered samples. He also works with similarly altered instruments and vocals. The title track uses an exploding firework for bass, cracking ice for a snare, and a down-shifted sample of a marching band for part of the melody. Smith then chops up samples of his own piano playing alongside filtered vocals from Careful. It is a dense, layered, beautiful track that feels as intricately constructed and delicate as a house of cards. It has the warped R&B feel of James Blake mixed with the heavily filtered melancholy of Burial, all screwed down as if on a gallon of syrup. The title is a play on "type I error," referring to a false positive. According to Smith, a "Type One Era" refers to a certain period of your life when you think things will turn out a certain way but they don’t. Smith got the idea from a book by J.D. Salinger about a wedding that didn't end up happening. The song manages to capture that sense of lost chances and dreams deferred. "Beau Geste" has a similar feel, and adds in a slowed-down crooner towards the end. "On Standby Part 1" is a detour from the slow and somber vibe of the first two songs. Instead, Smith goes for a more uptempo track that recalls the Field's experimentation with repetition and looping. "On Standby Part 2" is a return to the found-sound aesthetic, with Smith seemingly layering on as many sounds and samples as he can without having the track completely fall apart."
Joe Budden :: A Loose Quarter :: Mood Muzik Entertainment
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"Billed as the mixtape to warm fans up for Joey's "No Love Lost" album, "A Loose Quarter" was circulated across the Internet late last year and unfortunately slipped under my overloaded radar – part of the problem with rappers saving their work for pre-Christmas release. Truth be told, I've never quite understood the love/hate relationship fans have with the guy, other than the stupid Wu-Tang beef I don't see much to dislike. He can rhyme his ass off, he can be emotional and introspective, and he has a pretty good ear for beats. Having been one to buy the physical album rather than download mixtapes, I've missed out on a fair chunk of Budden's work over the years, and other than the thumping debut singles; "Focus" and "Pump It Up"; it wasn't until Slaughterhouse that I thought I'd better sit myself down and ensure I checked this fella out properly. Having followed Royce Da 5'9'' since the crusty joypad days of Grand Theft Auto 3 and Joell Ortiz since that track "Hip Hop" dropped, Joey and Crooked were relatively new to my ears. Admittedly, Crooked has destroyed every collaborator he has worked with, and I enjoyed his work on the overlooked "Back 2 Basics" album by Sway and King Tech. But Joe Budden just hasn't really grabbed me as a listener. The beauty of reviewing albums is the chance to cover artists that I'd otherwise not have the funds or time to offer, and "A Loose Quarter" starts off well enough. The production throughout "A Loose Quarter" is mildly more hip hop oriented than "No Love Lost", which I'd usually say benefits the record, but for the most part "A Loose Quarter" is full of leftover material from "No Love Lost". "Words of a Chameleon" is as passionate as you'll hear Joey, and an apt description of him as you'll likely find. Switching colours, whether it be hardcore lyricist with Slaughterhouse or talking about the fairer sex throughout an album over soft production, or fighting inner demons via strong narratives and then spitting some ignorant club shit, Joey has always had an enigmatic quality about him. Unfortunately at two minutes, the chameleon doesn't live long enough to truly show his colours until later on in the record. "
Joe Budden :: No Love Lost :: E1 Music
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"It's hard to believe it has been ten years since Joe Budden debuted with his self-titled Def Jam release that contained the hits "Focus" and "Pump It Up". Not because it seems like yesterday, but because he has put out a constant stream of work each year, knocking up at least twelve solo efforts that makes it seem like he has always been here. Much of Joey's work blurs the line between mixtape and fully fledged album, but it's fair to say that "Joe Budden", "The Mood Muzik Trilogy", "Padded Room", "Escape Route" and "Halfway House" have each had their fair share of acclaim, albeit none have granted Joe with "best in the game" status that fellow Slaughterhouse-member Royce Da 5'9'' was rightly lauded with back in 2008/2009. Speaking of Slaughterhouse, the four headed monster of hip hop that released a superb mixtape and equally impressive self-titled album (the less said about "Welcome To Our House" the better), I've always felt Budden was the weak link (cue mass amounts of hate mail). Royce is an animal, and Crooked has proved time and again how impressive he can be (personally he is my favourite member, minus the ridiculous tattoo incident). Ortiz usually adds some much needed tomfoolery whilst remaining the most down to earth guy too. But Joe Budden just never really struck me as the great rapper some proclaim him to be. There's no denying the lyrical ability of Budden, he is a fantastic writer; particularly on story driven material such as "In My Sleep", but when teamed with Slaughterhouse he is often "out-rhymed". Perhaps this is why the release of "No Love Lost" feels like the perfect opportunity to strike out to a market not really targeted since LL Cool J started showing his six-pack: love rap. "NBA" is not a comparable analysis of basketball to the rap game, but a garish boast-athon about money that doesn't suit Budden at all. "Top of the World" is an oddly upbeat piece of music from Joe, which although devoid of any real emotional value, is insanely catchy thanks to the Drake-like hook from Kirko Bangz. It's more strip club than nightclub, but Joe's flow is on point and his demeanour lends the track an essence of fantasy that stops it from being too generic."
mc chris :: Kicks Tape :: mcchris.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Try a search for "Kicks Tape" on Google and you might unintentionally get a story about mc chris kicking a fan out of his concert in Philadelphia. Let me help you out a little - this is a link to the free download on the mc chris website. To give you a little background though, this release originated with a Kickstarter campaign for a mc chris cartoon, which he has since shopped (so far unsuccessfully) to several venues. Backers who donated $2,500 or more were promised "a song written about you or the subject of your choosing" along with a personal phone call and other assorted goodies. While fellow indie/nerdcore rapper offered a similarly-funded album for a small fee (but also made the entry price for a custom song much lower), mc chris is giving his away entirely for free as a thank you to his loyal supporters. On his music page it's classified under "Remixes," which makes more sense when you hear the song "Thank You For Being a Fan." Unlike the other three songs on the "Kicks Tape," this Golden Girls cover is dedicated to "all 1183 cartoon backers" who donated regardless of the amount. For the three who took the big plunge and ponied up $2,500 specific songs like "Local Heroes" are the result. This one is pretty special, as it goes out to petty officer first class Dread Johnson, stationed with the U.S. Navy overseas in Guam, a communications expert who missed his favorite comic book store Local Heroes in Norfolk, Virginia. They're sure to see an uptick in business as a result of the song, so perhaps they should give a few free comics to Dread once he comes back from his latest tour!"
MC SubZero :: The Mind of a Fortress :: Meant-Ill Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"SubZero's website comically suggests that all purchased of his album "The Mind of a Fortress" are "fully shrink wrapped for that super fresh feeling!" As it turns out though that's even true of promo copies, because that's how RR's copy of his album came by post. I'm used to imports arriving in our postal box in less than stellar shape if they come in a gem case at all (many are single sleeve) but the shrinkwrap must have helped here because his CD popped out as "fresh" as advertised - no cracked case, no broken teeth, no surface scratches. I have to admire the chutzpah of SubZero to make the statement as a joke yet actually deliver on the promise, especially since for an independent self-distributed artist, the cost of every little aspect of printing thousands of albums (including shrinkwrap) adds up. SubZero is a fairly impressive artist in general. If he were to come from Detroit, Michigan insead of a Tamil neighborhood in London, he would probably be regarded as a "horrorcore" rapper - although even those in that genre often reject it as an oversimplification of their topic matter. Still there's little doubt there's darkness in his topic matter and beats, making him a stark contrast to fellow Tamil artists from around his way like M.I.A. - and also making him a subject of controversy at times. His song "Tamilz" shocked Londoners who had long turned a blind eye to the illicit activities of a demographic they did not always incorporate into their mindset, and certainly outraged Sri Lankan immigrants who didn't want to be lumped into one stereotype as violent sociopaths. Nevertheless the song achieved a dialogue on both sides that had been long overdue - the kind of dialogue there should have been more of before the London riots of 2011. Polite British society can't ignore its disenfranchised communities forever, especially when the only way to achieve dialogue comes with a Molotov cockail. The alternative is always preferable."
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