If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Tony Touch's "The Piece Maker 3" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Tony Touch :: The Piece Maker 3
Author: Grant Jones
"The turn of the millennium saw a boom in hip hop compilations that managed to capture hardcore authenticity with commercial accessibility. Violator Records dropped two strong records, Rawkus had their stellar "Soundbombing" trilogy and a slew of DJs were pumping out CDs with tracklistings that made Dr Dre's "2001" look like a solo album. DJ Clue, Funkmaster Flex and of course Tony Touch, were key figures during the late 90s when New York was smashing apart the charts with its blend of hip hop and R&B. Whilst the likes of Flex and Clue were predominantly focussed on the here and now, I always found "The Piece Maker" to be a concise mix of hip hop overall. There was the popular single "I Wonder Why (He's the Greatest DJ)" that didn't just borrow from Sister Sledge's "He's the Greatest Dancer", but brought a pleasant twist to the already heavily sampled classic. It was one of the few songs on the compilation that featured Tony Touch rapping, with most of the record featuring legendary rappers – the most memorable being KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap's "Class of 87". The sequel wasn't quite as successful, and relied on a Sean Paul single to move units, which in turn led Tony to release a couple of records under the Latin-heavy "Reggaetony" moniker. As much as I admire Tony for honouring his heritage, I can't help but feel relieved to tell you that "The Piece Maker 3" is a return to the hardcore hip hop. Just as Gang Starr kicked off "The Piece Maker" thirteen years ago with Guru's tribute to Tony atop a scratch-heavy DJ Premier ‘piece', the third instalment sees Preem supply another banger. Unfortunately Tony's rhymes aren't great, and getting D-Stroy onboard appears to be so they could call the song "Touch & Destroy" more than anything. Initially, D-Stroy sounds way too aggressive (to the point of Sean Strange-level wackness) but the more you listen to it, it grows into one of the better underground street tracks from Premo's endless vault of head-nodders. Tony reunites current fire-spitter Roc Marciano with former Flipmode colleague Busta Rhymes for a track that sees producer Dready provide a production to take you back to the days of Busta's early work. "Hold That" features "modern Busta" though, putting delivery over flow – meaning that even relative unknowns such as J. Doe surpass the Flipmode leader."
Chanel West Coast :: Now You Know :: DatPiff
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"No, Chanel West Coast is not an ill-fated dyslexic competitor to DubCNN.com, the renowned West Coast rap news portal. The name's not Channel but Chanel - like the fragrance and fashion brand. Chelsea Dudley, middle name Chanel, is listed as a 'rapper, singer-songwriter, actress, model and television personality.' She fits these job descriptions rather vaguely, but she's still young, so let's say she's currently working on having a significant career in any of these fields. One detail in her resumé actually tells me she already accumulated job-specific work experience as her bio mentions that 'at 17 years old, she launched her first MySpace Music page under the name Chanel West Coast.'Her social networking led to a gig on skateboard celebrity Rob Dyrdek's 'Fantasy Factory' show on MTV, where she became known as 'the rapping receptionist.' Seeing as how the entrance into the music industry via MySpace is already a thing of the past, you could say she came up perhaps not the old fashioned way but in a way that is closed to today's newcomers. In the broader terms Chanel West Coast fits in with a generation of young creative women who use rap as a form of expression at their convenience whenever they want to add a certain edge to their performance. In contemporary pop music alone a number of female vocalists from Ke$ha to Lana Del Rey utilize rap to varying degrees. Hardcore rap fans rarely take those advances seriously, optionally considering them cute or annoying. It's different when we feel someone really wants to be a rapper, and considering the high rap ratio on Chanel West Coast's debut mixtape "Now You Know," she's definitely out to be recognized as a rapper."
Dirt Platoon :: War Face :: Shinigamie Records
as reviewed by Jaroslav 'Czechone' Lavick
""Throwback hip hop", "that 90's sound", "golden era vibe" etc. are all phrases thrown around far too often by hip hop reviewers and fans, and I'm very guilty of that myself (and no doubt I'll use such talk again and again). It's language not only used by those on the listening side though, as artists themselves often use such references as a selling point, some even naming their albums accordingly e.g. 7 G.E.M.S. with their "Golden Era Music Sciences" album. Don't get me wrong, striving to recapture those days is not necessarily a bad thing as it's not known as the "golden era" for nothing, but let's not lose sight of the fact that "back in the day" had its share of simply average product and a great deal of wackness also. I think sometimes the lens of the rose coloured glasses of nostalgia need to be cleansed as it wasn't all an era of purely classic albums and artists, nor does a 2013 release with "that 90's sound" automatically entitle that release to be deemed brilliant. Who remembers artists from the 90's like Tha Chamba, Brothers Uv Da Blakmarket, Deadringaz, Gunslinguz, Hoodratz, Nuff Ruffness and numerous other lesser knowns? Ok, assuming a name or two there rings a bell, and you recall finding the one and only CD by said group in a bargain bin for $5 back then, and took a punt on buying it; do you still listen to it nowadays on the regular? Can you name more than one track from any of those artists off the top of your head? Probably not, and more than likely their CD's are packed away in a box "somewhere" and you only see them when you are spring cleaning or moving house. Or you might fish one out from the dark depths of your collection after you've been watching old hip hop videos on Youtube, when by chance you see a video by the artist on the sidebar links and check the album out again to remind yourself what they actually sounded like. I know some of you are saying "you don't know what you're talking about, that Brokin English Klik album was an under-rated classic!", and no doubt many of the unknown groups were brilliant, and believe me I was and still am as much into obscure artists/albums as any other long-time obsessive hip hop collector. "
Eddie Logix :: Eddie Logix Plays Lykke Li :: EddieLogix.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"You may know Eddie Logix as one half of the Detroit-based rap group Progress Report, but the bio that precedes the release of "Lykke Li" tries to throw that out the window. In fact it's comically over the top to the point you'll either love it or find it supremely annoying when reading it. I've never heard of "cowboy stamp collector Claude Merriweather" and neither have you, and I sincerely doubt he studied for six months at the University of Ho Chi Minh City. The upshot of this whole joke is that Eddie's greatest musical influence is alleged to be Lykke Li, a Swedish singer/songwriter who had one breakout pop hit in the U.S. - the song "I'm Good, I'm Gone" in 2008. I honestly don't remember it and watching it on YouTube before writing this review didn't jog my memory one bit. It sounds like her vocals make up the song "Deal Hard" though, either as a remix of her work or a complete audio re-interpretation. At least as a producer I can understand Eddie's motivation here, even if his bio remains largely unfathomable. It's entirely possible all 9 songs on "Eddie Logix Plays Lykke Li" borrow from or interpolate her catalogue, but I'm going to have to unapologetically admit that I'm not going to listen to all her music to find out. The liner notes on Bandcamp don't say - they just run down his whole whacky bio again. He's also borrowing from a list of guest stars to rap on these tracks arguably more obscure to me than Lykke Li, save perhaps for MidCoast Most (another group he's a member of). Out of all of his collaborators, the only one I really latched onto is Doc Waffles - he raps like the white nerdy version of Kool Keith."
Hodgy Beats :: Untitled 2 EP :: Odd Future/DatPiff
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"I was convinced I had already reviewed a Hodgy Beats solo album - either because I spent so much time working on "The Dena Tape" lyrics, or because the MellowHype albums feel like they're Hodgy's own with Left Brain cameos. For those who don't know, Hodgy was actually the first member of Odd Future to drop a solo release, preceding Tyler's "Bastard" by 5 months in back in 2009. Tyler was the one the mainstream latched onto though due to his deep vocal tone and purposefully disturbing lyrics, so while Hodgy's role as a producer and contributor to the group effort is critical, his stardom as an individual seems eclipsed by how brightly Tyler burns. That's true of everybody in Odd Future to some degree save perhaps Frank Ocean, but as noted, Hodgy came first - and that seems to be largely ignored. Hodgy's "Years" asks the pertinent question "Where do you see yourself in a couple of years?" The entire Wolf Gang can ask the same. Right now it's all good times with TV networks and record labels sucking up to them, and the ability to either act too cool and ignore them or cash in here and there and still maintain credibility with a large fanbase. Jealousy of Tyler has yet to creep in and fracture the crew, but if he continues to be the most identifiable and sought after member year after year, there may come a time where Hodgy, Mike G, or Earl Sweatshirt feel overlooked and get the rock star ego trip. It's perhaps appropriate that Lee Spielman, lead singer from punk rock band Trash Talk (a recent signee to their label) guest stars on "Goodbye" - the last song of "Untitled 2" and a metaphor for potential problems intentionally or not."
Man In Charge :: so illegal :: Branch Out Collective
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"The Branch Out Collective is prolific these days - seemingly sending a new project our way on a weekly basis. I'm not in a position to complain given each one so far is above average. Since the trend only started recently it hasn't reached the over-saturation that No Limit Records did in the late 1990's - not yet anyway - and I suspect things will slow down before the time the leaves in Ann Arbor turn color and start slowly drifting to the ground. And "so illegal." Wait though - why is an Eastern Michigan emcee rapping about the Pacific Northwest on "Fuck Wit It?" It turns out he spent a few years there pursuing the grind as both an artist and a underpaid employee - finding limited success in either endeavor. "so illegal" was born of that frustration - feeling isolated, lonely and broke and just not giving a damn any more. When he conceived the album, his intention was to use the most blatantly obvious samples possible (that no record label could ever clear without paying exorbitant fees) and putting the torch to both his dress shoes and expectations. Sadly when M.I.C. moved back to Ann Arbor, bad went to worse as his brother Donovan 'D-Squeeze' Hyter drowned - causing "so illegal" to be dedicated to his memory. The obvious reference is of course the ad salesman played by Jon Hamm, but I can't consider his brother being named Don a coincidence - and if it is that's one hell of one. It's worth noting that despite all his torment, depression and loss this is not a dark and disturbed project like Drapetomania. In fact this self-produced album is damn near bouncy and pop at times, with "Almost Grown" building up electronic instrumental layers to an infectious chorus crescendo."
Zilla :: The Book of Trill :: O'Third Entertainment
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"If anybody wrote The Book of Trill, it's Pimp C and Bun B, and indeed lately the latter has been heard defending UGK's rights in regards to the term 'trill.' That was before Zilla dropped "The Book of Trill," but chances are the Trill O.G. won't be too mad at the way the Alabama artist pays tribute to the sound of the South on his new EP. I purposely say 'sound' because "The Book of Trill" is foremost a musical treat. It's a delicious serving of the modern soul food cuisine whose currently most famed chef is Mississippi's Big K.R.I.T. The kitchen staff for "The Book of Trill" consists of three members of Huntsville production team Block Beattaz - Bossman, Cees and R.Dot -, as well as Lil Ced, who leads a band of guitars, horns and pianos on the bluesy-funky title track that kicks off the proceedings. Big Pope provides an urging sung hook as Zilla gets down to the nitty-gritty in vintage southern fashion, with both a sense for dramatization and contemplation. The next cut, "From the Souf," beats a dead horse much like the K.R.I.T. song "Cool 2 Be Southern" did. At this point in hip-hop, is it really necessary for southern artists, especially the younger generation, to insist on them being different? Either way the strongest argument for the track's southernness is made by Bossman, who assembles an ingenious hook by combining angelic choir vocals with a slowed and chopped rap phrase. He also produces the snappy "Erry Witcha Way (Gettin Money)," making sure the track isn't overloaded yet still eventful. Fellow Block Beatta Cees pulls down the shades on "Changes", lighting a slow burning concoction of trippy '70s soul which Zilla graces with the same veteran flair as the previous tracks. Bossman and Bransen Edwards team up for the super smoooth "Day by Day," again crafting a great chorus by combining live and sampled vocals. The R.Dot-produced "On My Own" brings things back to the present with an AutoTuned hook and slowly swirling synths."
Zomby :: With Love :: 4AD
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Most of the instrumental hip-hop albums I've heard this year, like Shlohmo's "Laid Out EP" or Nosaj Thing's "Home," have more in common with electronic music than hip-hop. So it's only fair that one of the strongest instrumental hip-hop albums this year comes from a British electronic music producer, Zomby. Despite the fact that it's not meant to be a hip-hop album, it has more in common with hip-hop than what most of the actual instrumental hip-hop producers are making in 2013. Zomby came on the scene in 2008, releasing an EP on the dubstep label Hyperdub. His debut album, "Where Were U in 92?," combined dubstep with the sweaty rave music of Zomby's youth. He went in a much quieter direction with 2011's "Dedication," made in the wake of his father's death. That album saw him experimenting with the snap beats, rolling high-hats, and gunshots that are standard Southern street rap components. "With Love" sees Zomby going even deeper into that territory, while continuing to explore ambient music and 90s rave music. The album is split across two discs. A lot of the first disc is made up of pretty, ambient songs ("Memories"), and amped-up techno and drum n bass tracks ("It's Time," Overdose," and "777"). There are also several tracks that wouldn't feel out of place on a Three Six Mafia album. "The Things You Do" has menacing swagger punctuated by snap beats and booming 808s. "Horrid" and "Orion" balance out 90s rave synths with hi-hats and thundering low ends. Even a mellow ambient track like "Pray For Me" mixes snap beats and gunshots into the icy synths. Disc Two sees Zomby diving even further into Southern trap rap. He constructs delicate melodies, and then backs them with rolling hi-hats and trunk-rattling bass. In fact, Zomby leans so hard on the hi-hats and bass that the songs start to meld together, feeling more like sketches of the same track versus individual songs. "
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