If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including Pusha T's "My Name Is My Name" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
Pusha T :: My Name Is My Name
Author: Jesal 'Jay Soul' Padania
"2013 has been a disappointing year for hip hop - one that promised so much, but has failed to deliver. There have been some quality albums from commercial rappers, but classics? Arguably the only genuine contender for that lofty title thus far has been "Yeezus" by Kanye West, and even that album has continued to prove extremely divisive. Thus, the "Album of the Year" spot on has opened up far too easily for Pusha T, finally delivering his solo debut "My Name Is My Name" to the masses. Once you've heard it a few times, the similarities to former joints from the Clipse ring true, but with added trademarks of a modern day Kanye/G.O.O.D Music venture. Almost unilaterally, it works - as well it should on a concise twelve track, forty-six minute album. As with "Yeezus", it certainly takes a while to sink in, though. You'd be forgiven for being a touch disappointed after the initial couple of spins, as there is a notable absence of those Neptunes club bangers (like "Grindin'" and "Mr Me Too"); the middle core of MNIMN also loses a bit of steam (tracks four to eight are practically shuffled without thought, it seems). For someone who likes it "purer" and habitually delivers albums and mixtapes with near-bulletproof sequencing, Pusha T has dropped the ball here. It's probably the biggest downside on display, as each song (apart from, perhaps, "No Regrets") is an eight or higher - so although the consistency is there, it's somewhat sabotaged by the middle order. But if that's the only actual problem - it's something that can be sorted out with an iTunes playlist in thirty seconds - then it's a good sign, as otherwise Pusha T has certainly gifted us with a strong set of brilliant and varied hip hop songs. The word "songs" is important, as (like Big Boi) he can actually write one from start to finish, with the craft and subtlety of a screenwriter placing you instantly within the scene. That deadened delivered is occasionally punctuated by an endearing "Woooh! Ric Flair, nigga!" and Pusha always knew how to communicate his message effectively. He's 36 now, and has remained remarkably consistent over the last dozen years plus, and the two immediate standouts - "Numbers on the Boards" and "Nosetalgia" - are unimpeachable classics."
Betty Ford Boys :: Leaders of the Brew School :: Melting Pot Music
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"Like practically everywhere else, the rap scene in Germany has largely abandoned sample-based beats in the new millennium. As of late, however, there's been something of a crate digging renaissance, for which Melting Pot Music has served as a major hub. The Cologne-based label that celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2012 maintains the beatmaker platform "Hi-Hat Club" (six volumes and counting) and hosts a yearly event for beat enthusiasts called Beat BBQ. Brenk Sinatra, Dexter and Suff Daddy are all members of MPM's Hi-Hat Club, and together they form, as the label puts it, the 'first hip-hop producer supergroup out of Germany'. They all have careers outside of instrumental hip-hop. Austria's Brenk Sinatra is the group's veteran hip-hop head, scoring his most high-profile gig recently with his work for L.A. legend MC Eiht. Dexter was unexpectedly part of the chart success of German pop rap sensation Cro last year, only to tackle a full-length homage to '60s psychedelic/prog rock with "The Trip" this year. Suff Daddy was spottedremixing rap favorites, but also enjoys working with leftfield vocalists such as Miles Bonny and Fleur Earth. The Betty Ford Boys seem to share not just an addiction for organic grooves but one for organic intoxicants as well. Vocal samples and song titles support the image projected by band and album name. The latter may be a pun on the '90s East Coast crew that gave us Busta Rhymes, but there's a heavy West Coast bent to "Leaders of the Brew School." Imagine Oh No and The Alchemist deciding to give the Gangrene thing a rest and let the music do the talking - not before getting high on some less aggressive concoction than "Vodka & Ayahuasca." Or think of studio sessions between Madlib and Sounwave or between Jake One and Jelly Roll. Two producers working together are in good company with the aforementioned Oh No and Alchemist or DJ Paul and Juicy J, Cool & Dre, The Neptunes, etc. but three seems to be a crowd."
Brothers of the Stone :: Brothers of the Stone :: High Focus Records
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"High Focus Records aren't wrong on that front. Leaf Dog actually sounds like B-Real if he grew up in a British council estate. And that's all you need to know about Brothers of the Stone, there isn't too much reflection or time for political debate here. As fun as that sounds, it does limit the audience - but I'm no weed smoker myself and I enjoyed this record more than you'd expect. Just as Cypress Hill were dope enough (pun intended) to make any rap fan enjoy their work, the Brothers are more similar than you'd think. Perhaps not in their music - IllInformed isn't quite as unique as Muggs and Leaf Dog is just as much influenced by Ol' Dirty Bastard as he is B-Real, but the three have great chemistry and excel at catchy hooks and distinct deliveries. You can really hear ODB in Leaf Dog's delivery on "They See You", a superbly produced track that showcases IllInformed at his best. "Take Control" sees BVA and Leaf Dog nail their hook, but it's the horns and vocal squeals on the beat that sound so refined (like a lot of the album does) - it's no surprise these guys have acquired some highly respected guests. "Go Hate" is a more mundane affair, thematically at least, but the Leaf Dog hook is infectious and despite Reef the Lost Cauze's presence, the Brothers make the song their own. "Cartoon Days" is a stoner's tale of hallucination that is essentially average hip hop until Jack Jetson throws out some Dexters Lab references with a relentless, lyrical display reminiscent of early Jehst. The vocabulary is truly top notch. The rapper that refuses to retire - KRS-One - dominates proceedings on "Future" atop a surprisingly punchy beat, although the much-hyped underground emcee Beast 1333 doesn't really add much to the song. The award for Most Inaccurate Song Name goes to "Meditation", a filthy production evoking visions of deserts and scorching sunlight, snake charmers and more. "
Deltron 3030 :: Event II :: Bulk Recordings/Universal
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Del the Funky Homosapien has been ahead of his time since he debuted in the early 1990's. Time never caught up to him. In the year 2000 A.D. for most of us mortals, Del had already moved ahead to the year 3030, a dystopian era where our protagonist tried to overthrow the new world order by unleashing destructive computer viruses. Del had something in common with most sci-fi writers though that many casual observers missed - his futuristic fantasy was in fact a clever critique of modern day society. Del could rap about disenfranchisement, poverty, alienation, government surveillance, man vs. machine and racism under the guise of rapping about a place and time not our own. Strip away the thin veneer of futurism and Del's album was a middle finger not just to hip-hop mediocrity but to a broken society seemingly uninterested in its own problems. 13 years later Del has returned with "Event II" and reunited with Dan the Automator on production and Kid Koala on DJ to recapture that vibe. Del is still ahead of his time, but Anno Domini caught up slightly as it's only 3040 in the future sequel. Various accounts though suggest Del was working on this album as far back as 2004 and that parts of the album had been completed in 2008. Intentionally or not this turned into a running joke - every time Del announced "the album will be out this year" one could assume he was (A.) pulling out collective legs or (B.) stuck in a Dr. Dre-esque trap of pursuing perfection with no end game in sight. Both may have been true at various points but there's no question of his commitment any more when the album is right here in front of us. There's little doubt on "City Rising From the Ashes" that Del is that hero. While the video shows human beings dressed up like Tusken Raiders wandering around a barren landscape littered with metal artifacts on a quest to rediscover nature, there's even less doubt this time that Del has laser sights pointed at us. "
Ghostpoet :: Some Say I So I Say Light :: Play It Again Sam
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor
"Some Say I So I Say Light" is the second album by British artist Obaro Ejimiwe, who performs as Ghostpoet. His first album, 2011's "Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam", was nominated for a Mercury Prize. As with his debut, Ghostpoet's sophomore release sees him straddling the line between electronic music, hip-hop, R&B, bedroom folk, and ambient music. The album opens with "Cold Win," a song about trying to escape the drudgery of everyday life. The music is ominous, catching the oppressive feeling of facing another day commuting to a dead end job. This sense of existential dread is repeated throughout the album. On "Them Waters," he complains that of being "Mind stuck in cubicle. On "Dial Tones," he complains "Nothing seems to satisfy/taste in my mouth/Like bitter old tea." For someone who has received a fair amount of critical acclaim, he sure seems bummed out. The album works best when his depressive lyrics are paired with dynamic music. The jazzy guitar on "Plastic Bag Brain" gives life to a song that is full of ennui and self-doubt. The stuttering keyboards on "Them Waters" give the track both a sense of menace and some kick. That kick is essential, given Ghostpoets gloomy lyrics and sleepy delivery. Unfortunately, the last half of the album gets bogged down in its own navel-gazing. "Sloth Trot," "MSI musmID," "12 Deaf" and "Comatose" get drowned in their own morass, never really congealing into songs. At best it could be ambient background noise, but the music is too unsettling for it to even function as chillout music. The closest contemporary comparison you could make to Ghostpoet's music would be James Blake, who likewise makes close, intimate music that exists somewhere between electronic music and R&B. The one big difference between Ghostpoet and James Blake is that Blake does a better job of writing actual songs. Even at his most abstract and quiet, Blake has melodies you can hang on to. Too much of "Some Say…" feels formless, like an idea that is percolating but not quite there."
Harn Solo :: Perfect Picture :: Harn Solo
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Harn Solo got a harsh review his last go around, but any aspiring artist should know, you don't succeed by surrounding yourself with yes men. Even though it's hard to distance yourself emotionally from your creative output, a selective objectivity allows you to take even stinging barbs as constructive ways you can improve. Patrick Taylor listed these areas of improvement for Solo: "Solo accents the last syllable of each line and goes up a few octaves higher. Combine this with rhymes that lean towards simple, and he sounds like someone doing parody rap." Solo proved his resilience and his ability to take Patrick's review in stride by hitting us up with "Perfect Picture," an album which his press kit states is the SIXTH of his career. That just goes to show he's not new to taking critiques, be they positive or negative, but could also be indicative of one of two things. If "Shooting Star" was the fifth album, Patrick's critique could suggest he hadn't grown much on the first four. On the other hand into every rapper's career a "Hard Knock Life" must fall - an album that seems drastically out of place compared to the rest of his/her catalogue. Who's to say what was going on in Harn's life at the time? He's already had one upheaval in his lifetime - having transplanted himself from Los Angeles all the way to New Orleans. It may just be that he was still getting "settled in." One thing's for sure listening to Solo - he doesn't sound like a N'Awlins emcee or a Dirty South representative. Maybe after living in the area for a few more years he'll start to pick up the accent and personality of his adopted home, but for now he sounds much as Patrick described him. I'm able to discern some stylistic similarity to other emcees though - the pattern of his vocal delivery suggest kinship to Cali artists like Jurassic 5. I'm not suggesting Solo is on their level in rhyme writing, but that inflection to his tone may be more a product of where he's from than a "parody of rap" per se."
K-Def & DaCapo :: The Article EP :: Slice-of-Spice, Ghetto Man Beats
as reviewed by Grant Jones
"Originally advertised in 2008, "The Article" has finally been released. Not under the original guise of The Program, but under the featured artists names – K-Def and DaCapo. K-Def has been around for a minute, having helped produce the self-titled Lords of the Underground album with Marley Marl, as well as providing tracks for Ghostface Killah, P Diddy and even UGK. "The Article" is certainly more along the lines of the Lords' record in terms of how it involves horns and maintains a raw, yet fun mood throughout. If you've ever enjoyed a Jurassic 5 record, tracks like "The Article" and "Free Speech" are examples of why Chali 2na and friends are still missed. "The Article" is full of sticky bass, sharp snares and precise rhyming, but it is the light-hearted, borderline corny vocal sample that ties things together. "Free Speech" is definitely more of a homage to the artists that came before K-Def and DaCapo, with a hook containing numerous legends, most prominently Flava Flav simply saying "check this out". DaCapo himself sounds like a toned down El Da Sensei, with a hint of O.C. in his diction. He doesn't provide any moments of spectacular storytelling or memorable wordplay, but is solid throughout the record. He is sort of just there on "Daydreamin'", but then flourishes on "Fallen", eulogising numerous deceased rap and soul artists. He manages to add some surprisingly honest admissions, primarily one that sees him admitting to never following Big L when he was alive, and regretting it. But it is this air of authenticity that lends him instant gratification, taking this further on "Gotta Get Da Cash". There are two versions of this song on "The Article"; the EP mix and the Original mix. Both see DaCapo talk about his need for cash, but that he doesn't want to sacrifice his soul for the art whilst earning it. The EP mix is distinctly Buckwild-like, feeling like some straight up DITC shit, sleigh bells and all. The Original mix however, is a real neck-shredder, and by far the best production on the record – if you don't feel this song straight off the bat, you best do a Kool Moe Dee and go see the doctor. "
Kno :: Death Is Silent :: APOS Music
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Zach 'Goose' Gase
"As the summer winds down and we trade in our tank tops for hoodies, our flip flops for boots and our swim trunks for jeans, I also like to make a transition in the music I listen to. While the summer is often filled with big anthems and catchy pop songs, I like the autumn months to be filled with darker, more introspective somber music. It's also nearly the three-year anniversary of one of my favorite fall albums of all time - Kno's "Death Is Silent." Those familiar with the CunninLynguists and their catalog know that Kno is among the best producers of the past decade (that's not at all a hyperbole for those folks who are unfamiliar with their music). Fans of the 'Lynguists may also remember that prior to Kno's 2010 solo debut "Death Is Silent," he very rarely rapped on their albums (especially on "A Piece of Strange" and "Dirty Acres"). It certainly wasn't due a lack of skill, as he stole the show on tracks like "Brain Cell," "Georgia" and "Things I Dream." He explained that he didn't feel the need to rap on those records (also Deacon the Villain and Natti are extremely talented and underappreciated rappers). But it seemed as though Kno was withholding some of his best raps he's ever written for his solo project. "Death Is Silent" is filled with some phenomenal rapping, including technically outstanding rhyme schemes, double entendres and a wide range of flows. "Death Is Silent" is unabashedly sinister and dark - both lyrically and production-wise. Death is a major theme throughout the record. On "If You Cry" Kno mourns the loss of his grandfather, he regrets going through with an abortion on "Spread Your Wings" and he even depicts his own demise in great detail on the climatic, Tondeff-assisted "I Wish I Was Dead." "Death Is Certain" is one of Kno's strongest bodies of work, in terms of beat making."
Naughty Boy :: Hotel Cabana :: Naughty Boy/Virgin
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"UK Month continues with the debut album of Shahid Khan a/k/a Naughty Boy, though "debut" is a very loose term here. Naughty Boy has actually been recording and producing dating back to 2005, although it wasn't until he laced tracks for Chipmunk and Wiley that he was propelled into the musical spotlight. Prior to that his biggest claim to fame had been winning 44,000 pounds on the TV game show "Deal or No Deal," and to Naughty Boy's credit he invested those winnings into his fledgling music career - a decision which certainly seems to have paid off. His good fortune has in turn propelled friend and singer Emeli Sande from relative unknown to darling of the UK scene. American audiences who don't know the name would remember her singing at the opening and closing of the 2012 Olympics. Back to Naughty Boy though - the "debut" here is the first album Khan has done for himself, featuring his own production throughout, as opposed to crafting hits for other popular UK artist. "Hotel Cabana" is meant to be a clever theme alluding to the "guests" who "stay" for a while on his album, but it's a theme you can quickly discard. It's better to think of this as a compilation album along the lines of Pete Rock, where Naughty Boy handpicks his favorite artist to perform over his beats. One significant difference is obvious though from the hit single "La La La" - Sam Smith is not an emcee. It's hard to deny the infectious childlike hook NB's chosen producer Komi creates with the sample that reflects the song's title, nor the clean and upbeat drums that shuffle in the background. The song may not yet be huge in the United States, but it won't be long before it is. Naughty Boy's collaboration with Wiz Khalifa on "Think About It" suggests he does have international crossover ambitions, and the song is strong enough that Khalifa might want to get permission to reissue it as a bonus track on one of his own albums. In fact Naughty Boy's beats and Ella Eyre's singing add a freshness to Khalifa's raps he should keep in mind for future songs going forward."
Suspekt :: The Underground Strikes Back :: Move
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Jaroslav 'Czechone' Lavick
"Suspekt were, and remain, one of the lesser known UK hip hop groups from the 90's, which is unfortunate as the quality of their music was up there with the best the UK had to offer in those days. After a couple of earlier EP releases they finally brought us their debut LP in 1996, which, as a document of anti-commercial hip hop, was appropriately titled "The Underground Strikes Back". They waste no time with an introduction and get straight to business with the funky opener "Straight from the Heart". Musically the track is driven by a relatively simple breakbeat, backed by a catchy bassline, has drops of lovely horns throughout and nice DJ work in the chorus. There's nothing stellar about the song, it's simply a very solid opener, but what really stands out here are the two MC's. Firstly we hear the precise verbal diction of Blue Eyes (who I wrote about in my review of his "Straight from the UK" EP), and secondly we have the slightly more rough and aggressive sounding Lennie, who has a natural flow and strong mic presence; the two are quite different yet offset one another nicely, as has been the case with many of our favourite rap duos over the years. The theme of the opening track is basically an attack on commercialism, fakers and so on with lines like "you don't get one ounce of respect, when I hear a UK rapper copy the USA, I press eject". The ideal of non-commercialism and staying true permeates throughout the whole album, which fulfils the expectations set by the album's title. Next up we have the "Blow Up" remix, which is a reworked version of the opening track from their 1994 "Bury the Bullshit" EP. The original version of this track is one of my favourite Suspekt tracks of all time, and whilst this somewhat jazzed-up version isn't quite up there with the rougher original, it's still an awesome track. It starts out somewhat deceptively with a mellow introduction of jazz licks that would be at home on an A Tribe Called Quest album, but then suddenly it launches into frenetic scratching, followed by a bass heavy beat which then remains as the centrepiece of the song. "
various artists :: Complications :: Brickwood Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Occasionally I need to preface a review with a portion of the press release just to explain what the hell is going on - both for the reader's benefit as well as my own. This is one of those times. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you Brickwood Records. "Brickwood Records is a botique label based in Oakland, California focused on releasing quality electronic music. Their premier release, Complications, features up and coming artists from North America and Europe." Now aside from Dub Sonata you may not be familiar with most of the artists on this album. Quite frankly I wasn't. That's what "up and coming artists" means though right? I shouldn't know Antler Music ("14th St. Booty") or Choco the Beatmaker ("Buraliste") from Adam. That doesn't mean they don't have some interesting beats to share though - in fact I'm including a taste of Choco's dark beats below. There's an inherent awkwardness to reviewing something which purposefully brands itself as NOT hip-hop for me, and yet it was just as purposefully sent to RapReviews. Since one fact can't be separated from the other, they must consider this to be a hip-hop album on some level - QED. There are times I can hear it and there are times I can't. "C-Bush" by Pinewoods & Soultec$ is one of those songs that pushes the boundaries - a bit dubstep, a bit electronic, and a bit the Coldcut remix of "Paid in Full." Fjazz' "South Bender" makes no apology for its hip-hop origins, with a dirty raspy sliding backdrop like an Akai being pitch shifted by a Casio. CB Radio's "MAGnificent" could with only minor tweaks be an instrumental to a rap song."
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