If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including E-40 & Too Short's "History: Mob Music" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
E-40 and Too $hort :: History: Mob Music
Heavy on the Grind Entertainment
Author: Matt Jost
"True, he may be overdoing it these days, having just announced volumes 4, 5 and 6 of "The Block Brochure," but the truth is also that E-40 is one of the very few rappers who have been in the game for 20+ years whose new output can compete with contemporary sounds in terms of pure freshness. On last year's double decker "History" Earl Stevens invited fellow rap veteran Todd Shaw to dip his pimp cup into the fountain of youth he hides somewhere on his estate. "Function Music" promised to cover the more socializing aspects of Bay Area rap music while the companion piece "Mob Music" seemed more dedicated to trunk rattling than booty shaking. The lines aren't drawn all that clearly, even so the ratio of spacey, repetive club tracks is significantly lower on "Mob Music" (just "Fire Fighter," really). Instead the duo rides minimally orchestrated but sonically booming tracks that many will recognize as vintage mob music. Longtime E-40 collaborators Sam Bostic, Studio Ton and Rick Rock all provide production, but mob runs also in the Stevens family as Earl Jr., p/k/a Droop-E, once again shows himself to be a receptive student of his father's musical legacy. His opener "We Are the Pioneers" is an abrasive, pulsating something whose intentions you can't quite gauge other than that it's definitely up to no good. The menacing undertone has long been a staple of E-40's music, but it has always been tempered by verbal wit and the perspective of looking from a comfortable present back at a cutthroat past. Case in point - on "We Are the Pioneers" 40 admits he couldn't have imagined "signin' autographs for cops" a quarter of a century ago."
JJ DOOM :: Key to the Kuffs (Butter Edition) :: Lex Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Patrick Taylor was fairly clear when he reviewed "Keys to the Kuffs" back in January of this year that he was underwhelmed. That's not to say he hated the collaborative effort of MF DOOM and Jneiro Jarel - it's just that with DOOM collaborations in vogue again the bar has now been set a little bit higher. It's not an easy task given the Metal Faced one has a raspy, off-beat flow and freely admits to his love of inebriation on dozens of tracks. The right producer with a deft touch can create a banging boom bap rap that sounds like demented genius - others "inspire apathy" as Patrick wrote. "Keys to the Kuffs" still garnered a 6 out of 10 overall, but it was clear DOOM and Jarel could have done more. Coincidentally or otherwise it appears the artists agreed with Patrick, as they've gone back to the lab and retooled "Keys to the Kuffs" with a brand new BUTTER EDITION. The press release accompanying the album outright states this is the "new and improved" version, as though we're discussing the latest version of Colgate toothpaste or dishwasher detergent. The key to improvement appears to be outside collaborators as Thom Yorke, Dave Sitek, Clams Casino and Beck ("soy un perdedor") among others adding their remixes to the album. There are also some brand new songs in the mix as well, including "Viberian Son" featuring Del the Funky Homosapien. Curiously "Part II" was one of Patrick's favorites on the original version, but that was an instrumental only track, and that's clearly been usurped by this rap song."
Junclassic :: Blvd Backdrop :: HiPNOTT Records
as reviewed by Jaroslav 'Czechone' Lavick
"If it wasn't for hip hop I possibly would never have heard of New York's Queens, it certainly wouldn't have been so familiar to me. The same can be said for the city's other boroughs, aside from Manhattan perhaps which comes up frequently enough in every day references due to the international notoriety of Wall Street, Times Square and of course 9/11. It goes without saying that Queens is one of the most famous and iconic locations in hip hop history, bringing us the likes of MC Shan, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Nas, Large Professor, 50 Cent and numerous others. However, those from Queens are more qualified to speak on its significance to hip hop than I am, and one of those residents is Junclassic. "Rep Queens" from his latest album "Blvd Backdrop" pays tribute to the borough and its artists, and I guess it's pretty appropriate that he's using the LL Cool J "Eat'em Up L Chill" instrumental (although the beat jacking is not particularly creative and LL rips his track better). You can play "name the artist/song" while watching the video. Despite not being the first name that comes to mind when thinking of Queens, Junclassic is certainly not new to the scene. He first appeared in 1997 as part of a duo called Dynamix, and since then has released 7 solo albums and is also part of the Monsta Island Czars (M.I.C.) collective (where he's known by the Gabarah alias). Junclassic is new to me though, although I enjoyed the one and only Monsta Island Czars album it didn't feature rhymes from him as he came to the crew later on. Additionally, by chance or choice, his previous albums never registered on my radar. Therefore his eighth album "Blvd Backdrop", with fellow NY native DJ Bazooka Joe on production, is my Junclassic initiation."
Knx :: Anthology :: Leaving Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Knx, aka Knxwledge, is an L.A.-based beatmaker who has been putting out his work on Bandcamp for the past four years. This anthology collects fifty-three beats from his fifty-two Bandcamp releases (http://gloof.bandcamp.com). Beyond being incredibly productive, Knx sets himself apart from the trend in hip-hop by charging a premium for his goods. While a lot of rappers are giving away their music for free, a Knx EP will set you back five bucks, and he charges ten dollars for a ten-track "album." That means that exploring his entire discography would set you back over three hundred dollars. To put that in perspective, a box set of the complete studio recordings of the Beatles is selling for $178 on Amazon. I'm all for an artist getting paid for his or her work, but it seems gutsy to price your work higher than the one of the most beloved musical acts of all time. Thankfully, Leaving Records has released this anthology, which will only set you back $12 for the MP3s, (the double-cassette version is sold out). Knx is a reclusive artist, steadily putting out music in his home studio and staying outside the mainstream. As a result, his music has a insular feel to it. You can tell he is making this music for himself, not to get a party started or ride the latest trend. He does remixes, but none of those show up here. Instead it's a whole lot of downtempo, melancholy instrumental hip-hop. Knx seems inspired by Dilla and Madlib, and takes the same crate-digging approach of those two producers. "
Literati :: Fait Accompli :: Fill in the Breaks/Literati Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Literati is a Minneapolis by way of Sweden rap team consisting of rapper Mercies May and producer Caesar. The former apparently got "deported back to the United States," so he was only there long enough to develop a jaded attitude about American cultural complacency. Meanwhile Caesar was making a name for himself in the Twin Cities with his beats, to the point that when the two teamed up they were a perfect fit for Fill in the Breaks. Those who know the FITB imprint are probably familiar with rapper/producer Ecid, but a strong roster of local Minnesota artists has filled in the blanks around him. Having dipped their feet in the water with the EP "Real Pain For My Sham Friends" in 2011, "Fait Accompli" is their full length arrival on the scene with 12 tracks and almost 45 minutes of material. The title itself is a summation of their position in the competitive Twin Cities rap scene - a way of saying "we're here and for real and we ain't goin' nowhere - so deal with it." Not even a sudden blast of "Tear Gas" can make them stop standing their ground and run - they are firm in their beliefs. There's also a fair bit of despair in songs like "The Future," where they seem to believe humanity has taken a turn for the worse. The unnamed singer on the hook provides some balance though, and her vocals combined with the hard hitting electronic backdrop make the entire song reminiscent of a Swollen Memberstrack. Mercies doesn't have the jagged brutal beauty of Madchild, but he does have just as much to say, and perhaps in declaring himself "My Own Worst Enemy" he and the SM rapper would find some common ground."
Moon Blazers :: summer :: Bandcamp
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"In the two years since I last heard from the Moon Blazers, their former imprint Domination Recordings appears to be vanished off the earth. That's a shame given the talent to have gone through their roster over the years - names like Majik Most and Breez Evahflowin among others. I've tried the DR website but its gone tits up, and if you Google it you can only find vestiges of it in places like the Free Music Archive. I think it's more shocking that it went out not with a bang but a whimper. That's the state of the music industry these days. Thankfully the Moon Blazers didn't go down with the ship. They were quiet for a while but they're back in a big way with "summer," the first in a planned series of EP releases to be thematically released every three months. That's right - for the next nine months you can expect albums like "fall" and "spring" with a chilly blast of "winter" in between. Too gimmicky? Perhaps you don't know the Moon Blazers then. This is a rap group who once professed to have time travelled back to 1975, forced to ply their trade as traveling buskers and performers to survive, until the same temporal anomaly that sent them to the past brought them back to the present - with no explanation of why it happened either time. To say the Moon Blazers live in a world of their own imagination would be an understatement. On the opening track of "summer" the chorus professes an incredible work ethic using an incredibly unreal word: "I'm the grindinest nigga nigga nigga you know." Seriously - "Grindinest" - for real? Even "irregardless" seems like a real word by comparison, but the Moon Blazers make it work with sheer chutzpah. And for what it's worth the "summer" theme does seem to fit this EP, especially on light and breezy declarations like "Travelin Man." The opening verse may have my favorite anime reference in the last six months."
Rekstizzy :: Whatever You Say :: Rekstizzy.com
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Rapper Rekstizzy has until now lived by the motto "Fake It Till You Naked," but it's 2013 and it's time for an update. Stizzy's new motto is "God Bless America," but he's not waving the flag and pledging his allegiance to the United States per se. He has more in common with "Team America: World Police," as he proudly and loudly yells "I eat burgers dog, fuck yeah! God bless America, fuck yeah!" over and over again on the chorus. The background instrumental is a little on the repetitive side, but the humor of "God Bless America" makes up for it. Stizzy walks the fine line between celebrating and mocking the values of conspicuous consumption and jingoistic pride. That's in keeping with his last album, where he did the same high wire act balancing between alcoholism and satire of the drinking culture. If you're never quite sure which side of the line Stizzy falls on, it keeps you that much more interested in what he has to say as an emcee. What's even more interesting is that he lined up some big name collaborators this time. Stizzy links Queens to Brooklyn as Brownsville's own Lil' Fame guests on the energetic "Come at Me Bro."Stizzy also features the New York rock band Brother K on the disturbingly Orwellian "Homeland" and the much more mellow "Bliss," although it still has a hint of despair at the overwhelming urban landscape. "Rushmore" brings together Stizzy and a selection of upcoming emcees - St. Louis' own Rockwell Knuckles, Detroit's Quelle Chris and relative newcomer T.SHIRT (or at least new to me). The collaborations suit Rekstizzy well, who seems chameleonic in his ability to blend with whoever he's collaborating with."
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