If you missed any of the new reviews this past week, including Joey Bada$$' "Summer Knights" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Joey Bada$$ :: Summer Knights
Author: Patrick Taylor
"Like Tyler the Creator and the Odd Future crew, Joey Bada$$ and his Pro Era cohorts seemed to arrive on the scene fully formed, with a complete sonic and aesthetic identity. Where Odd future was all about being as transgressive and offensive as possible and mashing skate punk with rap, Pro Era was set on reviving New York's golden age of hip-hop. Joey's "1999" mixtape last year said it all: he and the Pro Era wanted to see New York return to the period when the city was still the center of the hip-hop universe, before Houston, Atlanta, Memphis, L.A., Chicago, and Detroit (and London, and Adelaide, and Berlin) proved that they could make hip-hop that was more interesting than what NYC was putting out. People were quick to praise the Brooklyn teenager as the second coming of Nas, a rap Messiah set to lead the Five Boroughs back to the promised land of musical relevance. I imagine that Joey had the same sensation a lot of us old timers have when he revisited "Illmatic" or "The Low End Theory" after hearing the millionth club rap album or street rap mixtape full of synthesizers and rappers with limited lyrical ability. It's like having a home-cooked meal when you've been eating nothing but frozen pizzas for weeks on end. I imagine him thinking, "so THIS is what hip-hop is supposed to sound like!" and then going out and doing his best to channel that mid-nineties vibe. The good news is that he still manages to capture that Native Tongues feel on his latest mixtape, "Summer Knights." The bad news is that he sometimes falls into the same traps that ultimately led to the demise of the sound he's so fond of. The mixtape is aptly named. A lot of it has the feel of a lazy summer day or a hot summer night. The beats are head-nodding without being overly aggressive or flashy, and Joey has a languid, easy flow. It's the kind of music for cruising around on a hot, lazy night, or talking shit and drinking beers with friends. There is also a cloud hanging over much of the album. Joey's friend and partner Capital Steez took his own life in December, and his ghost haunts this album."
Gucci Mane :: Trap House 3 :: 1017 Brick Squad/Atlantic Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Here we are again. Radric Davis is back in the "Trap House." You expected lyricism? Then you don't know Gucci. You expected intelligence? Then you don't know Gucci. Occasionally he makes a catchy hit song thanks to knowing a few good producers, and I suppose by this point you'd have to call his mush-mouthed lazy vocal delivery a "unique style." If you really want to stretch the truth you could even call it "charismatic," though that implies he has energy. Most of the time his rap style is devoid of it. He raps like he's drunk off cough syrup, smoked a whole bag, got frozen in a block of ice while all high and fucked up, was thawed out, and took a hit of laughing gas while still half frozen - and immediately went in the studio to record his vocals that way. He's the epitome of the rap punchline "even your tongue'll fuck around and leave your mouth." The bad news is there's a whole hour of this. The good news is he has guest stars. A cameo by Wiz Khalifa results in the album's best lyrical performance for "Nuthin On Ya." Unfortunately other than Rick Ross the other guests don't hold up - I guess it wasn't good news after all. It's a steep fall off from those two to 2 Chainz, and when you go from there to Chief Keef it's a wrap. It's not worth discussing cameos beyond that. As mentioned though Gucci Mane does have some nice beats here and there. Drumma Boy's "Fuck With Me" is okay - it won't go down as his best work but on this album it's a highlight. Lex Luger's heavily synthesized "Can't Trust Her" is a good one, but the damn singing on it makes me wish it was an instrumental only. And credit where it's due, both the Wiz Khalifa song and the single "Thirsty" are produced by C4 & DJ Spinz."
Joe Blow & Ral Duke :: Leviticus EP :: Bandcamp
as reviewed by Jaroslav 'Czechone' Lavick
"We all have this certain artist we like; the artist that you feel you are the only person in the world that knows about; the one you believe would be close to enough to a legend in the underground hip hop scene if only the right opportunities arose. Qred from Wales is that artist for me. He's been releasing music since the mid 90's, both as an MC and producer, initially as part of a group called Ruff Intalect, and later working in a solo capacity and also collaborating with other artists (he also concurrently works in the Drum & Bass realms). He has many redeeming qualities as an overall hip hop artist, but most outstanding (and relevant to this review) is that he is from the school of hardcore beats; beats that hit direct with force, and he wants you to feel those drums pound through to your inner core. Most things he touches have a sinister darkness to them, not quite horrorcore but more a gothic Mobb Deep "Hell on Earth" ambience with touches of the rawest side of golden era UK hip hop, add an industrial bleakness to the mix, and you have Qred. If you happen to take the time to listen to the "Leviticus" EP (emceed by fellow Welsh residents Joe Blow and Ral Duke) and enjoy the production, then I urge you to also seek out Qred's albums such as "Dungeon Siege", "Backstreet Lobotomies" and "Courtyard of Lunatics". For all my familiarity with Qred, the MC's are relatively unknown to me as I've only heard them as brief guests on Qred's albums. A background check tells me they are part of a Welsh collective known as Squid Ninjaz (started up by Joe Blow), and after hearing this EP I'm going to be looking deeper into what else they have to offer."
Kid Tsunami :: The Chase :: HeadBop Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Kid Tsunami is not the latest luchador to splash through your television on CMLL, nor is he a new video game protagonist inhabiting a realm of dangerous bearsharks and monkeygators. He's not starring in Kick-Ass 2, and he's not the latest marketing gimmick for Sun Drop to tell you how unexpectedly good their drinks are. Here's what the comic book-esque named Kid Tsu IS though - a producer from Perth, Australia with a decidedly throwback production style and sound. The fact he cites Diamond D, Pete Rock, Large Professor and the Beatminerz as his influences should tell you all you need to know. His alter ego could be Captain 90's. Lord knows guest star Sean Price has enough alter egos to go around for both of them - and he's the partner-n-rhyme of "Bang Exclusive." It's a rude awakening - nobody safe! Judging by the list of talent on "The Chase" it's fair to say Kid Tsunami's reputation proceeds him. You could hardly come up with a better who's who of emcees you would want over hot beats, and in keeping with his Captain 90's soundscape, these are many of the hottest rappers from my college days. J-Live blesses the bars on "a brand new shout to the past" called "What It Was." Andre the Giant is still a giant in the mental if not stature on the mellow jazz and refreshingly boom bap track "The First Letter." Masta Ace jumps from the 1990's to "Twothousand40" as scratched in samples set up his laconic flow lovely. El Da Sensei, Bahamadia, Prince Po, KRS-One and O.C. are just a few of the names making up this beefy selection of talent - high in protein and low in filler. "
R-Swift :: Apply Pressure :: Rhyme Council Music Group
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"The biographical info for R-Swift is a little more scant than I like when doing a review. I know he's from the Rhyme Council, but I don't know who else is in the Council with him. I know he's lived in both New York and Philadelphia but now resides in Atlanta, but I don't know why he moved around so much. I can tell you the name of his manager and his booking agent, but I can't tell you who he's opened for or who he's toured with. Details are important Swift - so please beef up your Facebook a bit. I tried going to your label's website, but it's a domain parked with Register.com, so the only thing I had was FB and I got that from your publicist. Now that I'm through criticizing the minutiae, let's get down to criticizing the music. For somebody who is seemingly as newborn to hip-hop as Kate and William's baby, R-Swift has a polished yet gruff flow with a political message of empowerment and self-support. The press sheet doesn't mention any of the producers on "Apply Pressure," but they do a good job of playing the background to let the strength of Swift's words come through. "Don't Go" talks about being the child of an unwanted pregnancy with a whole lot of potential. I don't know if it's a personal story or just one he tells from the unborn baby's perspective (again a little bio info would help) but it strikes a chord either way. The word that comes to mind while listening to "Apply Pressure" is "thoughtful." There's a very deliberate and constructed approach to everything R-Swift says, meaning he put careful consideration not just into his breath control and his rhymes, but into the message those words would convey. I never heard "Part 1" but "Dear Mr. President, Part 2" makes me want to. "
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